October 15, 2019, by lzzeb
European Society for Environmental History conference 2019
A blog by Dr Robert Hearn
From the 21st to the 25th August, I attended the 10th biennial conference of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH), hosted by the Estonian Centre for Environmental History (KAJAK) at Tallinn University. Celebrating the society’s 20th anniversary, this year’s conference explored the theme of ‘Boundaries in/of Environmental History’. The numerous panels, roundtables and keynotes – alongside book launches, educational fairs, excursions, local producers’ fayre and even a conference beer tasting session -made for a bustling programme reflecting the inherently interdisciplinary nature of environmental history, wide-ranging contributions made by researchers from across the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences.
Amongst my personal highlights of the conference was the panel on ‘Environmental History as the politics and tools of timing: nature-times, calendar-times and political times’ organised by May-Brith Ohman Nielsen (University of Agder) and Kristin Asdal (University of Oslo). With papers on ‘Timing Predators’, ‘Timing Fish’, ‘Timing Bees’ and ‘Timing Rats’, this panel sought to explore how the history of environmental politics can be analysed and narrated as a history of timing, both human and more-than-human. Another highlight of the conference was the keynote by Alf Hornborg (Lund University) on ‘The Power of Signs: environmental history as the interfusion of meanings and metabolism’. These contributions exemplified the pioneering work in the environmental humanities undertaken in Scandinavia, where the field is flourishing under the influence of groups such as at the Environmental Humanities Laboratory (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm) with Marco Armiero and the new ‘Greenhouse’ Environmental Humanities initiative co-directed by Dolly Jørgensen and Finn Arne Jørgensen at the University of Stavanger.
Concerning a location some distance away from Scandinavia, but no less interesting, our panel ‘Border Crossing and Crossing Borders in and across Ligurian Landscapes’ presented papers from Italian and British academics based at universities around Europe. Comprised of an art historian, archaeologist, historian, geographer and sociologist, our panel was chaired by Giulia Beltrametti (Università della Svizzera Italiana) and consisted of papers by Raffaella Bruzzone (Marie Curie IEF/University of Nottingham), Anna Maria Stagno (Marie Curie IEF/Universidad del Pais Vasco), Vittorio Tigrino (Università del Piemonte Orientale) and myself. My contribution took the form of a presentation on the ‘More-than-Human Geographies in/of Liguria’, an area in northwest Italy that I first became acquainted some 10 years ago as a student at the University of Nottingham. As a panel, we also had the pleasure of celebrating Anna Maria’s successful application for a prestigious research grant (1.5 million Euro) from the European Research Council (ERC) to fund the project ‘Archaeology of Sharing Practices: the material evidence of mountain marginalisation in Europe (18th – 20th centuries)’, led by the Università degli Studi di Genova.
In short, my trip to Estonia proved to be every bit as fascinating as I had hoped for, and I am grateful to the School of Geography for their generosity in funding my attendance and participation. I am already looking forward to the next in 2021, the location of which will no doubt be as interesting as those of the last 20 years.