The environmental crisis challenges the writing of history in two ways. First, historians strive to explore how the global histories of empires, capitalism, economic integration, neoliberalism are connected to ecological collapse. Second, by addressing such problems historians are forced to confront a planetary history predicated on deep time and a decentred human subject. These two movements, towards the global and the planetary, reflect the paradox of the current predicament: the concomitant growth of human mastery and impotence. Should this problem be understood, as ‘new materialists’ would have it, as the result of a ‘Cartesian’ worldview that divides the world into nature and society? What about the ‘old materialist’ – i.e., Marxist—approach that sees capital as an impersonal but powerful force that subsumes ever more of nature into commodity production? What about various post-structuralist, feminist, and post-colonial interpretations of the environmental crisis?
To organize the methodological complexity of human interactions in the environment, the following questions guide the workshop’s aims:
- Is the critique of capitalism enough to explain environmental crises? What are the possibilities of melding different sub-fields, such as Indigenous, economic, environmental, and agrarian history?
- How can we write the histories of power over marginalized groups, species, and ecosystems, while at the same time grasp the more-than-human dependencies and interconnections upon which such forms of power relied? To what extent can these multispecies histories help us to decenter the critique of capitalism from an anthropocentric point of view?
- What are the various theoretical armatures that can include plants, animals, and other organisms in human history? Are some theories better suited for some problems than others, or is it possible to approach commodity frontiers, slaughterhouses, vivisection, and invasive species with the same lens?
- What methodological challenges of combining different regimes of historicity that range from moments to millions of years?
- How do historians include scientific findings into their analysis while maintaining a critical stance toward science? What are the methodological challenges of historicizing the so-called Anthropocene?
It will be a two-day workshop at the EUI’s campus in Fiesole. The format of the workshop is for participants to submit drafts of papers (c. 8.000 words) three weeks beforehand, which will be circulated to everyone. Each paper will have two discussants assigned to it, who will present their critique before discussion opens to the rest of the workshop. We expect to run three to four panels tentatively titled “Nature and Capitalism”, “Multispecies histories”, and “More-than-human frontiers”.
Please submit a CV and 300-word abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org by 28 February 2022. We will provide financial support for the travel arrangements and accommodation.
European University Institute
13–14 October 2022
Organizing committee: Maria Gago, Tomás Bartoletti, and Troy Vettese