AAC: Workshop “Technology, natural resources and crises in the past and present of Europe and beyond”

Dates: 21-22 October, 2016

Venue: National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) – Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Organizers: HSE, SHT, Aarhus University

Technology is a crucial factor in how humans interact with nature. As Theodor Schatzki states in his visionary article on nature and technology in history, “technology, society, and nature are so bound together in and as history that change in any one of them – in available technology; in human practices; in encountered, learned about, or incorporated nature – generally results in a simultaneous transformation in the other two”. One of the key illustrations of this change is changing attitudes towards natural resources in history. We know of many cases where the overexploitation of resources causes societal, environmental or technological crises. And yet, we do not sufficiently discuss how any of these crises force societies to substantially change their patterns of resource exploitation and / or to ‘construct’ new resources to overcome crisis. Studying and utilizing natural resources are widely recognized as pressing issues for contemporary Europe. Historical research is needed to understand the implications of the construction of particular natural objects as resources, the peculiarities of the interrelationship between societies and those resources, and conceptions of how the significance of individual resources in the life of society changes in different historical periods. We propose to discuss these and other issues at a workshop, focusing on both living and non-living resources and their use as a concept which helps to illuminate both crises and their solutions over history.

This workshop is designed to explore the crossroads between the history of technology, environmental history, the history of exploitation of natural resources in the past and present. The geographical scope of the workshop will cover Europe, its neighboring countries, and countries further afield that have been shaped by European markets and technology. This research will shed light upon:

1) how technology was used by states, scientists, local communities and other actors as a tool to build factories, excavate natural resources and explore new territories;

2) how technology contributed to conceptions of development and a sustainable environment, including the making of green technology, forestry, water politics, agricultural development, and bio fuels (among others).

We intend to explore the roles of expert and local knowledge and practices in the conceptualization, preservation, and exploitation of natural resources; to chart changing patterns of natural resource use;; to describe and analyzethe circulation of knowledge technologies for exploiting natural resources in Europe and beyond; and to describe the contexts in which significant sites of resource exploitation became important sites of historical memory.

The research will be centered upon, but not limited to, the following questions:

How have European societies changed their visions of resources over time? What is the connection between resources and crises? What can sustainable development mean and what were the national and global paths to it?How has nature been constructed as infrastructure? What have been the roles of international, state and local actors? How have ideas about the relations between technology and nature been transferred and circulated within Europe and between the continents? How can a historical understanding of these processeshelp us to understand the prospects for green technology, including the greening of cities.

Concrete historical case studies should be discussed and carefully chosen, they may include, among others:

-mineral resources (their excavation, technology, environmental effects, roles within economic crises) in Europe and beyond, including the Global South;

-water resources, including colonial and post-colonial technological projects of European countries: hydropower stations, water resources in cities;

-fisheries on global and local levels, the question of commons in oceanic fisheries, the interplay of technological and climatic influences on fisheries;

-exploitation and conservation of forest resources, alternative resources, use of wood wastes.

 

The workshop is designed as the first step toward a Tensions of Europe research group on environment and technology. It is envisaged as the first in a series of workshops to develop a future research program within the ToE network. Funding for participants without own funds will be available. It is the purpose of this and the follow-up workshops to facilitate the preparation of funding applications and a publication. Activities will take place over two days and will include both short presentations on possible contributions to the research on resources and technology and discussing an agenda; and discussion of the project itself and concrete steps of research.


If you are interested into taking part in the workshop, please, send a title and short description of your research (no more than 250 words) as well as specifying how your topic is related to the workshop theme. Please send your application by 30 June 2016 to Elena Kochetkova (len.kochetkova@gmail.com)

 


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