Nature, Culture, History

Conference at Oxford University, Great Britain

11. - 13. April 2022
Organisator: Graduate Conference in European History (GRACEH)
Veranstaltungsort: University of Oxford

What is nature, and does it have a history? According to British philosopher Kate Soper, ‘the natural is both distinguished from the human and the cultural, but [is] also the concept through which we pose questions about the more or less natural or articial quality of our own behaviour and cultural formations; about the existence and quality of human nature; and about the respective roles of nature and culture in the formation of individuals and their social milieu’. In what ways, then, can nature be historicized?

We invite graduate students working on any topic or period in European history and/or Europe in the world to consider the place of ‘nature’ in their research. We define nature in the broadest possible sense, including its material, social, political, and cultural dimensions.

This conference is open to all graduate students. We particularly encourage submissions from those who have not presented their work at conferences before or are from underrepresented regions and/or institutions. We hope to be able to support travel and/or accommodation for a limited number of presenters without access to institutional funding.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

The relationship between nature and humans
How has nature shaped the existence of humans over the centuries? How have humans exploited nature, and to what extent have natural forces been a hindrance or impetus for change? What is the relationship between nature and power?

Topics could include: ecosystems and human economy, post-human and more-than-human approaches to history, natural and supernatural forces and creatures, animal history

Environmental history
How has the environment shaped human societies throughout history and vice-versa? How have humans responded to environmental crises? What is the present and future of environmental history?

Topics could include: climate changes, environmentalism and environmental social movements, concepts of the anthropocene, history of ecology

Seascapes and landscapes, ora and fauna
How has the natural world been experienced or described by both settled historical actors – farmers, peasants, urban dwellers – and those ‘on the move’ – travellers, explorers, pilgrims, seafarers, slaves? What meanings have cultures and social groups attached to landscapes and seascapes, mountains and rivers, animals and plants?

Topics could include: natural and built environments, cultural representations of landscapes, ora or fauna, experiences and perceptions of landscapes/nature

Nature as metaphor
How have concepts of ‘nature’ (or ‘human nature’) informed culture, politics, and identity? What can postcolonial and decolonial perspectives tell us about ‘nature’ and empire? What made certain behaviours and norms ‘unnatural’? What did it mean, in dierent periods, to ‘return to nature’?

Topics could include: human nature and social norms, gender and nature, concepts of nature in social science, race and nature, the natural/social divide, ‘civilization’ and ‘barbarity’, ideas of nature in historical narratives, intellectual histories of nature

Nature in a global perspective
Studies of ‘nature’ address a variety of boundaries and oppositions, be they temporal, geographical, biological (e.g., human/non-human), or technological (natural/articial). What global boundaries exist in the study of nature throughout history? How have these boundaries been challenged and changed? Are there liminal spaces and/or internal/external spaces in a global history of nature?

Topics could include: ‘natural’ vs ‘manmade’ or ‘articial’ frontiers, environmental policy and politics, natural resources, environmental initiatives undertaken globally, regionally, and in cities/villages

Contact: GRACEH2022(at)history.ox.ac.uk

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