Common Ground, Converging Gazes: Integrating the Social and Environmental in History International Conference École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales Paris, 11-12-13 September 2008
Recently, several scholarly articles have focused on the nature of environmental history, its purposes, and its relationships with other close fields of research — particularly social history. The conference aims to open up this discussion further, to demonstrate that it is both possible and necessary to cast an ‘environmental gaze’ on social history’s growing agenda, and to make clear that social history has much to offer to environmental history.
In short, given that climate change, biodiversity loss and other ecological problems pose an enormous challenge to humanity now, and for the future, we do not think it desirable to write social and economic history which does not incorporate an environmental dimension. At a time when societies are confronted with the often dramatic consequences of past choices made in the fields of energy, technology, industry, agriculture, urbanization, consumption and other areas, we need a history that casts more light on the ways in which unsustainable human-nature relationships came into being. This means reconsidering many of the older emphases of social and economic history, and encouraging stronger connections with environmental history.
Conversely, we cannot content ourselves with an environmental history which focuses mainly on nature’s agency, the evolution of human attitudes to and understandings of ‘nature’, or even on humankind’s role in global warming or in the disappearance of species. Whatever the legitimacy of these topics may be, we also need research that takes into greater account the social and economic dimensions of environmental problems. Environmental change or pollution, for instance, does not affect people equally: men and women, young and old, white and black, low and high-income communities — all have different experiences. But how environmental issues play out along the lines of class, gender, race, and ethnicity is rarely just a matter of chance, and more often the result of long-term social, cultural, and economic forces. We still have a good deal to learn about how power, resources and risks have been distributed across both rural and urban landscapes, which calls for socio-economic history know-how.
It is clearly time for environmental history to engage more fully with the tools, methods and concepts of social and economic history — and vice versa. This is not to say that there has been no progress in establishing common ground, but we still need to bring these fields into closer communication, for their mutual benefit.
Proposals may deal with any research area in social or environmental history, so long as they address the issue of interconnections between the two sub-disciplines. The following list gives a number of suggested topic areas, but it is not comprehensive. Themes of sessions will be defined according to received proposals.
– Gender, class, race and ethnicity issues – Population and migration – Sites of resistance; struggles against environmental inequality – Landscape and memory; environment and identity – Housing, planning, sanitation and public health – Industry, consumption and business – Natural resources, energy, and transportation – Risks, catastrophes, air, water and land pollution – Labour, the workplace, and occupational illnesses – Agricultural practices, land-tenures, and the enclosure of commons – Recreation and tourism – Sources and methods
New researchers and doctoral students are particularly welcome. A limited number of grants will be available to encourage their participation.
Proposals will be examined by a scientific committee composed of:
Patrice Bourdelais, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris Michèle Dagenais, Université de Montréal Chloé Deligne, Université Libre de Bruxelles Patrick Fridenson, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris Marjolein ‘t Hart, University of Amsterdam Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris Stephen Mosley, Leeds Metropolitan University Simone Neri Serneri, University of Siena Richard Rodger, University of Edinburgh Sverker Sörlin, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Verena Winiwarter, University of Klagenfurt at Vienna
The conference is organised by the Centre de Recherches Historiques (unité mixte de recherche CNRS/EHESS), in partnership with the journals Les Annales des Mines and the Annales de Démographie Historique (to be confirmed), and the Association Le Mouvement Social (to be confirmed), and supported by the European Society for Environmental History and Leeds Metropolitan University.
Participants will be notified by 15th January 2008. The conference will focus on the discussion of pre-circulated papers (6,500 words or 30,000 characters) to be sent to the conference organizers in the form of email attachments by 15th June 2008. The languages of the conference will be French and English. Proposals will be accepted in either language. Pre-circulated papers in French must include a summary in English.
A preliminary programme will be produced, further practical information given and registration opened in February 2008. For any other information, please write to [email protected] or [email protected]