Resources and Economies of Knowledge in the Anthropocene

Resources and Economies of Knowledge in the Anthropocene

Nadin Heé (Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin); Helge Wendt (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
From - Until
12.09.2016 - 13.09.2016
Merle Groneweg

Organic and inorganic resources have provided and continue to provide the foundations for the development of human societies. Yet the processes and mechanisms through which knowledge about their use and exploitation co-evolved with societal praxis over centuries are highly context related. The production, dissemination and appropriation of knowledge about natural resources is interwoven both with the specific material cultures of a society or group and with it's political, economic and cultural conditions.

The workshop will focus on the knowledge economies of natural resources during the past 200 years, a period defined as the Anthropocene by the chemist Paul J. Crutzen: an age in which human influence has become so dominant that it has surpassed the influence of geophysical and other natural forces on the earth’s geo-biological system. The Anthropocene has seen a significant increase in the exploitation of natural resources on a global scale, which has led to the present situation in which the loss and shortage of several natural resources has become evident. To fully understand how local practices and techniques make use of resources, or how economic and social institutions exploit them, the global conditions in which these resources are situated must first be investigated.

The workshop seeks to understand the mechanisms and asymmetrical forms in which knowledge economies of resources evolved during the Anthropocene, a period that, in terms of history of politics, economics and culture, is defined by colonialism, imperialism, decolonization, nationalism and neocolonial environments. The workshop moreover seeks to understand how access to and transfer of knowledge relates to transnational, international and global networks that are organized as economic enterprises and understood as so-called modernization processes. We assume that natural resources with agricultural, maritime or subterranean origins have their own particular histories: histories of the use and exploitation of particular resources; histories of the development of knowledge for defining, analyzing and describing a resource; and histories of the transformation of nature. Theoretically and methodologically, we are particularly interested in discussing how we can (re)write a global history of the Anthropocene when resources are the focus of our attention. We would like to discuss whether recent approaches in the fields of global history of knowledge and environmental history are especially promising in this regard, and how they are able to interact with approaches in the fields of economic or political history.

This call for papers invites proposals that trace the production, dissemination and appropriation of knowledge concerning resources throughout the Anthropocene. We are interested in discussing some of the following questions from either a micro- or macro-historical perspective:
- How did knowledge concerning resources co-evolve and interact with societal circumstances?
- How did practical knowledge circulate and how were technologies and infrastructures disseminated geographically through globalization processes that were related to public or private economies during periods of colonialism and imperialism?
- How was the asymmetrical division of resources reinforced, and how were exclusion processes cemented by new territorial divisions and the exploration of new terrestrial, subterranean and maritime regions in the age of imperialism or during the Cold War?
-How is the division of resources and knowledge about resources related to Anthropocenic processes?
- How can differences in the development of knowledge and its application be explained?
- How could knowledge about resources evolve into and adapt to new fields of application?

The conference will be conducted in English. The organizers will cover (economy) travel and accommodation expenses for invited participants.
Please send a short abstract of your proposed contribution (no more than 400 words) and a brief academic CV with institutional affiliation in one file to and

The deadline for proposals is April 30, 2016.


Contact (announcement)

Nadin Hée
Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Koserstr. 20, Raum A 246, 14195 Berlin

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