A Journey Through The Ancient Commons of the Bristol Ring Road

PhD researcher Andy Thatcher (Film, University of Bristol) has been journeying through the ancient commons of the Bristol Ring Road over at Unofficial Britain.

Hinton Green (c) Andy Thatcher

Eastern Bristol is speckled with commons. Go way, way back and this whole area was part of the Kingswood Forest, a royal Anglo Saxon hunting forest. This means that all the little verges, scrappy bits of wasteland and neat greens that I am about to find around the Bristol Ring Road are relics of hard-won ancient rights and custom.

The day is getting on and I leave the car in the first car park I come to, promising the all-seeing gods of the Gallagher Retail Park that, when I return, I’ll placate them with something from the M&S food hall. This pilgrimage has been months in the making. Across the arterial road, a public footpath flows innocuously through the loud hulks of DFS and Buildbase. Its old walled hedgerows are still intact, and the blackthorn is exploding in slow motion with blossom, its dainty sparks the brightest objects on this drab afternoon. A few hundred yards on, the track opens out abruptly onto a clearing which is mostly fenced off with fat iron palings. They bristle with spikes ready to rip clothes and flesh.

Read the full post at Unofficial Britain.

North Sea Stories: Navigating the Blue Humanities in Norway

This post is re-blogged from Rebecca Tyson’s blog Norman Frontiers.


Course details.

I have just returned from a week-long intensive PhD-level course on the Blue Humanities in Stavanger, Norway and I want to write about the experience, and the ways it made me think about human interactions with water across time and space, while it is still fresh in my mind.

Rather than provide a repeat explanation of what the Blue Humanities is, above is a description of the course and of the Blue Humanities. I also won’t provide a day-by-day account of the course, and instead this blog post will explore some of the thoughts stimulated by my time in Stavanger, and the ways that the course has inspired me to chart new voyages into wider, and more contemporary, Blue Humanities literature. However, Professor Steve Mentz (St. John’s University, New York), who was one of the instructors for the first two days, has written about his own experience here https://stevementz.com/blue-humanities-at-the-greenhouse-stavanger/, which will provide some insight into the activities (boardgames which required 2-hours of reading the rules just to set the game up, enthusiastic engagement with Norwegian sauna culture which included swims in the fjord, and of course stimulating scholarly discussions). It was a great week, personally and professionally. These are a few of my thoughts.

I arrived in Stavanger the day before the course started, and I was immediately drawn to the water’s edge where I spent the extra time exploring the eastern side of Hafrsfjord. In (possibly) the year 872 a naval battle took place in Hafrsfjord, which was first recorded by the thirteenth-century Icelandic poet, politician, and historian Snorri Sturluson in the Kings’ saga, Heimskringla. Snorri wrote:

Then the whole army met up to the north of Jaðarr and then make in to Hafrsfjǫrðr. King
Haraldr was already lying there with his army. Then a great battle begins there immediately,
it was both hard and long. But in the end it came about that King Haraldr gained the victory, and there fell King Eiríkr and King Súlki and his brother Jarl Sóti. Þórir haklangr had laid
his ship against King Haraldr’s ship. And Þórir was a great berserk. There was there a
very fierce onslaught before Þórir haklangr fell. Then the whole of his ship was cleared of men.

– Snorri Sturluson, HeimskringlaVolume 1: The Beginnings to Óláfr Tryggvason,
Trans. by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes
(London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2011), p. 66.

This battle has been credited as the moment of the unification of Norway, when its victor, Harald Fairhair, proclaimed himself the first king of the Norwegians, unifying the numerous smaller kingdoms that had been in the region up to that point.

Sculpture of three 10m-high Viking Age swords commemorating the Battle of Hafrsfjord, on the eastern bank of Hafrsfjord. Installed in 1983.

2022 marks the 1150th anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord, and in June this year several events took place over two weeks commemorating the battle (https://rikssamlingsjubileet.no/en/). In May while I was on my Visiting PhD Research Fellowship at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark (see my blog post https://normanfrontiers.wordpress.com/2022/08/01/sailing-the-skuldelev-ships/), the crew of Helge Ask, the reconstruction of Skuldelev 5, were preparing to take the ship to this anniversary event.

A maritime view of the North Sea World.

I am interested in maritime connectivity and movement in the period around the year 1000 AD, and, along with taking a seaward perspective on medieval sources, reorienting the satellite image on GoogleEarth moves the maritime geography of the North Sea world to the centre, shifting the perspective away from the land and highlighting the ways that the connections between regions and peoples may have been conceptualised in the medieval period.

The fjords of south-western Norway.

By focussing in on different regions within this maritime space, the significance of waterways becomes even more obvious, and the commemoration of the Battle of Hafrsfjord shows that the place of medieval maritime activity is embedded in the foundation narrative of the modern country of Norway. Arne Kruse has drawn attention to the importance of these Viking Age maritime routeways through the placenames found along the western seaboard of Norway (‘On Harbours and Havens: Maritime Strategies in Norway during the Viking Age’ in Viking Encounters: Proceedings of the Eighteenth Viking Congress, Denmark, August 6-12, 2017, ed. by Anne Pedersen and Søren Sindbæk (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2020), pp. 170-85), and highlights the similarities with the way islands were used and named in both western Norway and the western isles of Scotland. The Norwegian fjords clearly provided a means of connectivity with settlements along the fjords and into the interior, which may otherwise have been isolated by the difficulties in traversing the mountainous interior, especially in bad weather.

Helge Ask, the reconstruction of Skuldelev 5, being rowed in Hafrsfjord during the Rikssamlingsjubileet in June 2022.
Photo from Rikssamlingsjubileet Hafrsfjord-Nordvegen 2022 Facebook page.

This is demonstrated in another of Snorri’s accounts, when in the autumn of 1026, following another naval battle, the Battle of Helgeå, King Cnut the Great trapped King Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway and his fleet in the Baltic Sea by blocking the sound between present-day Sweden and the island of Zealand, Denmark. This action forced most of the Norwegians to travel home in the winter on foot which took a long time compared to the journey by sea, which one man in the Norwegian army accomplished as he had made an agreement with King Cnut and was permitted to sail through the blockade (Snorri Sturluson, HeimskringlaVolume 2: Óláfr Haraldsson (The Saint), Trans. by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2014), pp. 194-96).

St. Svithun’s Cathedral, Stavanger. Currently a major restoration project is underway to get the building ready for the 900th anniversary of its foundation in 2025.

Another important North Sea story in Stavanger’s history is the foundation of the cathedral in 1125. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Swithun, a ninth-century former bishop of Winchester in southern England. In the late tenth century Swithun became the patron saint of Winchester Cathedral and his fame and importance grew from around the year 1000. In the year 1100 a man named Reinald, who most likely came to Stavanger from Winchester, started building the original cathedral and became its first bishop, dedicating his new church to Saint Swithun (and he probably brought the saint’s arm relic with him too). This saint from southern England is also remembered in a road name in central Stavanger. Michael Lapidge (The Cult of Saint Swithun (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) pp. 56-57) has explored the cult of Saint Swithun and the connections between Winchester and Stavanger, highlighting the links between the two religious communities, and other religious foundations in Norway, in the twelfth century which were facilitated through transmarine religious networks. Coincidentally, two days after I was wandering around Stavanger contemplating Saint Swithun and these medieval maritime connections between England and Norway, a new podcast from Gone Medieval was published on Saint Swithun and his cult (https://shows.acast.com/gone-medieval/episodes/st-swithun). A rather fortunate stroke of serendipity.

Sign for St. Svithuns gate, a street in central Stavanger.

As a medievalist and maritime historian (though, one of the many things I took away from the week spent with the inspirational Professor Ellen Arnold was that I think I relate more to the term ‘water historian’) I visit places, at home and abroad, looking for the water and how medieval people used, thought about, and interacted with the local coast/river/harbour etc and the places these connected them to. Like many medieval historians, I’m looking for the lived experience of these watery environments. One of the most tangible connections to these lived experiences is through the objects used by people in the past and then left behind. The Blue Humanities course took us out of the classroom on Wednesday to visit some of the museums in Stavanger, starting with the Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum occupies a beautiful building on the harbour front (actually 6 buildings spread over 3 late medieval merchants’ premises and linked together in a labyrinthine series of corridors and staircases), which is the museum’s most precious asset. The water would have come right up to the buildings originally, allowing merchant vessels to unload directly into the storehouses. On the top floor a sail loft overlooks the harbour, and the floors below contained different exhibits and reconstructed rooms reflecting the harbour’s commercial activities over the last couple of centuries.

Ceiling supports in the Maritime Museum which reminded me of ship’s knees (used in boatbuilding), probably indicating that boatbuilders also worked on these late medieval buildings on Stavanger’s harbour front.

My one recurring criticism of this fascinating category of museum is that they invariably fail to show, or even do more than provide cursory acknowledgement of, any maritime history prior to the activities of the Hanseatic League in the fifteenth century or often even the Age of Sail from the seventeenth century onwards. Stavanger’s maritime museum was no different, despite a tantalising, but brief, reference to nearby Avaldsnes, which has been described by the eminent Norwegian archaeologist Dagfinn Skre as ‘a sea-kings’ manor’ (Avaldsnes- a Sea-Kings’ Manor in First-Millennium Western Scandinavia, ed. by Dagfinn Skre (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018)). To avoid this post becoming an in-depth historiographical study of the scholarship on maritime activity in south-western Norway in the Viking Age let us just leave it at I think the Stavanger Maritime Museum missed an opportunity to highlight the region’s maritime significance further back into the first millennium AD (and beyond).
However, due to the excellent links between the University of Stavanger and the Maritime Museum, the PhD group were tasked to choose exhibits within the Maritime Museum and to rewrite their object texts from our Blue Humanities perspectives which we would then present to the curator later in the week. My contribution is below, and I attempted to address several things in a single paragraph: firstly, pottery is only boring if you talk about it in a boring way; secondly, the pottery didn’t move itself across the North Sea; thirdly, the ‘medieval period’ (arguably) covers 1,000 years from 500AD-1500AD and I think museums should be specific in their dating of medieval objects.

The objects from the Maritime Museum that I chose to rewrite the text for in one of the course exercises.

In the feedback session with the curator I was very interested when she said that the Maritime Museum’s remit was to cover the maritime history of Stavanger from the Reformation onwards, and that the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger would cover the earlier history. I had visited the Museum of Archaeology already and I knew that there wasn’t any display of this earlier maritime history, so I asked if there had ever been any meetings between the two museums regarding how each would represent the history of the town. The answer was no, there hadn’t. This exercise has given me a greater insight into some of the questions museums have to contend with about how and what stories to tell.

The Viking Voyagers Exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology.

I visited the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger, though it wasn’t one of the suggested museums to visit, which in itself was interesting and one of several instances during the week where I felt that the Blue Humanities field is, at present, largely the contemporary Blue Humanities, and at a push the Modern Blue Humanities in a historical sense. The Museum of Archaeology currently has an exhibition called Viking Voyagers, which explores the provenance of a selection of objects and postulates how they may have found their way into Viking Age burials in Norway. The exhibition was consciously outward looking, from Norway across the North Sea to maritime neighbours in Ireland (book/horse mounts refashioned into brooches in Norway), Scotland (penannular brooches), England (jet beads), and the Netherlands (fabric used for clothing). I was particularly interested to see a gilded silver brooch from tenth-century Carolingian Francia.

Objects in a burial from Litle Eige, Eigersund, south of Stavanger on the coast of south-western Norway. Object 1 is the tenth-century Carolingian silver brooch.

Normandy in northern France was a duchy within Carolingian Francia (for simplicity’s sake I refer to all the tenth and eleventh-century Norman rulers as dukes, though see Robert Helmerichs, ‘Princeps, Comes, Dux Normannorum: Early Rollonid Designators and their Significance’, in Haskins Society Journal, 9 (1997) 57-77 for a scholarly examination of the titles used by the early Norman rulers). In the early tenth century a Scandinavian leader called Rollo was granted land between the River Epte and the sea, probably as a way to stop other viking groups repeatedly plundering the Frankish interior using the river network (see Christian Cooijmans, Monarchs and Hydrarchs: The Conceptual Development of Viking Activity across the Frankish Realm (c. 750-940) (London: Routledge, 2021) for an examination of the scale of these attacks).

Writing c. 1015 Dudo of Saint-Quentin wrote the first (and official) history of the Normans which recounted Rollo’s pagan past and his exploits around the North Sea Zone, including time spent in Denmark, England, and the Low Countries (see Benjamin Pohl, Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum: Tradition, Innovation and Memory (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2015)). Dudo’s text was developed by William of Jumièges, writing c. 1050-70, who adapted the text and made additions of his own, including the first recorded story of (Ragnar) Lothbrok and Björn Ironside (see Elisabeth van Houts, ‘Scandinavian influence in Norman literature of the eleventh century’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 6 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1983), 107-21 (pp. 113-17)).

William of Jumièges also provided an account of the exploits of Olaf, king of Norway (1015-28) and later Saint Olaf, during his youth spent raiding in Francia, where William of Jumiéges is the only non-Scandinavian source for this period in Olaf’s life. A contemporary Scandinavian source for this same account comes from Sigvatr Þorðarson, an oral poet or ‘skald’ from Iceland who composed Old Norse praise poetry at Olaf’s court from c. 1015. Both Olaf and Sigvatr have been credited with a direct connection to Rouen, the principal city in early eleventh-century Normandy, as Sigvatr says that he had been to Rouen himself in the 1020s (see Sigvatr Þorðarson, ‘Víkingararvísur’, ed. by Judith Jesch, in Diana Whaley (ed) Poetry from The Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c.1035 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), p. 532-33), and William of Jumièges states that Olaf came to Normandy at the request of Duke Richard II to provide military assistance to the duke in 1013-14 and that he was baptised in Rouen by the duke’s brother, Archbishop Robert; a significant distinction for Rouen when Olaf was canonised in Norway only one year after his death in 1030 (see Elisabeth van Houts (ed). The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, Oxford Medieval Texts, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 24-27).

A model Viking longship and a relic of St. Olaf, patron saint of Norway, in Rouen Cathedral. Donated by the bishop of Oslo in 2014 to commemorate 1,000 years since St. Olaf’s baptism in Rouen Cathedral. Photo taken during my cycling trip around Normandy in February this year (see https://normanfrontiers.wordpress.com/2022/05/04/la-normandie-a-velo-normandy-by-bike/)

I had all these North Sea stories in my mind while I was standing in front of the case with the silver brooch from Carolingian Francia, thinking about the literary, artistic, cultural, economic, and political connections these objects reflected, yet they are placed here without this fascinating context. All we learn from the text in the case is that it is ‘a round, gilded silver brooch with plant decoration’, and all the stories from the world in which it was made are erased. It is just an object, as if objects don’t hold meaning for either us or their original owners. I felt surprisingly sad that other visitors to this exhibition wouldn’t know these stories. I never thought of myself as a storyteller, but the course last week had a heavy literary focus and now I am looking at these North Sea narratives and I feel that they need to be woven throughout my own thesis. I need to be an historian and a storyteller, and I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

Norse kings of Dublin and the Battle of Hafrsfjord display in the Viking Voyagers exhibition.

Returning to local waters again, another interesting display in the Viking Voyagers exhibition was on the possible involvement of Norse kings of Dublin in the Battle of Hafrsfjord. This is all very conjectural, and is based on the close association with the Norse kings of Dublin to the Scandinavian world and the names ‘Laithlind’ and ‘Lochlann’ in Irish sources, which the panel suggests may be names for this part of Norway. I found it fascinating that the exhibition curator dedicated a considerable amount of space to this complex subject, which was explored in only three paragraphs of text. There is probably a PhD thesis for someone in exploring these questions so it was a bold move, and I certainly left the exhibition feeling that they had done a good job in highlighting Norway’s maritime connections to the west. Sadly, those same connections with the east and the south were, however, entirely missing. Museums are not just the custodians of objects, they also have the power to decide which stories are told.

Cover of the 60th anniversary edition of Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.

I have focussed on the objects, seascapes, and sources in this exploration of my thoughts on the Blue Humanities PhD course, which reflects my training and background (and, lets be honest, also preferences) as an archaeologist and medievalist. However, on the course, only Ellen, myself, and another PhD were medievalists, with sixteen other PhDs and speakers coming from contemporary studies, or significantly more modern periods of study, which meant that during the week, I actually spent the vast majority of the time thinking about the Blue Humanities from those points of view. Yet, I felt that I gained a great deal by expanding my horizons into the literature and theoretical considerations of post-colonial, feminist, and more-than-human approaches. A discussion with a fellow PhD working on modern-day sardinella fishers in Senegal has introduced me to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and his ideas of national conscious, which I look forward to reading to broaden my perspective on the works of Dudo of Saint-Quentin and William of Jumièges. One of the set readings for the course was Barbara Watson Andaya’s ‘Seas, Oceans, and Cosmologies in Southeast Asia’ which, along with the in-class discussion with Professor Aike Rots (University of Oslo), has given me so much to think about regarding the place of spirituality along the coast of eleventh-century Normandy. I am not by any means suggesting that eleventh-century Normandy and modern Vietnam are the same, but by looking at these places, which are so far apart in time and space, in different ways to the traditional makes me ask different questions and see new answers. That is really exciting.

Abstract from Andaya’s 2017 article.

I found the Blue Humanities PhD course at the University of Stavanger to be a welcoming, stimulating, and fun experience. The other PhDs were all lovely, inspirational people who are doing such important work, I am excited to see what they do in the coming months and years. All the speakers were generous with their time and thoughts, and Ellen made us all very welcome in Stavanger and came up with a really great programme.

Thank you very much to the Centre for Environmental Humanities at the University of Bristol and to the NoRs-EH/The Greenhouse at the University of Stavanger for funding towards my attendance on this course. It is very gratefully appreciated.

Yellow boat naust, Hafrsfjord, Stavanger.

Rebecca Tyson is a PhD student in History at the University of Bristol. Rebecca’s blog Norman Frontiers can be found here.

PhD funding available in the School of Geographical Sciences

The School of Geographical Sciences (University of Bristol) is advertising two funded PhD scholarships, offering four years of fees and maintenance at UKRI rates. The scholarships are in human geography and are for PhD projects which align with one or more of the following areas:

  • Environment / sustainability /climate change
  • Economic, political, and social justice
  • Health and social care
  • Migration and mobilities
  • Sociodigital / data science / technology

The School has research strengths in environmental humanities, geohumanities, environmental history, decolonial geographies, landscape studies and other historical and cultural geography research areas. Several academics and current PhD students in the School are also members of the Centre for Environmental Humanities. The full faculty list for the School is here.

Applicants should contact proposed supervisors within the School prior to making a formal application to the PhD programme or for funding. All applicants must have agreed and written support from supervisors prior to applying. If you would like the CEH’s help with contacting potential supervisors for an environmental humanties or related project, please contact our communications officer.

Find the full advert here.

Life within the viral cloud

This post is reblogged from Milo Newman‘s blog, Mourning Auks: exploring creative articulations of ecological loss. Milo is a third-year PhD student in the School of Geographical Sciences.

The post details a period of artwork production and fieldwork on the island of Papay in Orkney, forming part of a PhD project exploring bird extinction through creative practice.

(C) Milo Newman

Time passes, washing over the island in a cycle of near continuous day. The Earth spins, and the sun is drawn down into a brief dusk, pulling light into the sea and lower sky. My plaster eggs, held in their pinhole cameras, collect all this illuminance onto their surfaces. Occasionally the haar drifts in, a sea fog borne by the wind. Moisture condensed over the coldness of the North Sea clags over the island. Distance collapses to a world of immediacy, to sequences of greys and eerie silhouettes. The experience of this light also gathers onto the eggshells.

On mornings when the haar is absent and the Holm is visible I often walk down to the beach and scan its distant shore with my binoculars, counting the pinhole cameras, and checking if they still look secure. Over the course of these repeated inspections I realise that the eggs are perhaps not recording a period of former care as I had imagined. Rather, they are collecting a durational space—one of reflection, or meditation perhaps, on the collapse of avian becoming (Rose, 2012; Rose et al., 2017; van Dooren, 2014) that is quite visibly occurring here.

As the most perceptible sign of this dull slide towards extinction (again see van Dooren, 2014), it’s been impossible not to keep thinking about the H5N1 influenza virus. Though just one of many pressures impacting the seabirds here and driving their decline, it is by far the most noticeable. The morbidity is devastating. Even though I am here researching such exterminating processes there are days when I find it too overwhelming—when I can’t bear to see any more sick, dead, and dying birds. Avian lives are precarious at the best of times, but the far-reaching ripples of anthropogenic activity, (including H5N1, which emerged in the virus laboratory that is industrial-scale poultry farming) mean that recovery from such mass mortality becomes harder and harder.

The forty-four day photographic exposure I’m recording to mimic the incubation of the extinct auks has been marked by this experience of death. On my walks I see the corpses of birds everywhere. Gannets protrude from the sand, half buried. Sometimes just the tops of their heads protrude, the feathers moving slightly as the wind scrapes the ground, rippling the beach away into streams of matter. Still other birds lie discarded amongst the seaweed on the tideline; guillemots, fulmars. Tattered feathers are strewn throughout. On another day I am invited to come and collect the dead bonxies (great skuas) that litter North Hill. There is a concern that this might spread disease by transferring the virus around on boots and clothes, and also a deeper anxiety that contact (albeit brief) risks giving the virus the opportunity to mutate and jump species. However, these apprehensions are countered by the fact that doing nothing also risks allowing the virus to spread. By leaving deceased birds to decay they are often scavenged, and can contaminate bodies of water. We use litter pickers to collect the carcases, lifting them around their necks and dumping them into binbags. It is depressing work. Many look to have died in anguish; their wings contorted and their heads pushed hard into the soft ground. Over the course of the afternoon we gather the bodies of a third of Papay’s breeding population.

I find myself thinking through the space of the island, and how it has been changed by all this death. Or rather, not how it has changed, but what falsities have been revealed in how space is predominantly conceptualised. I remember whilst gathering the dead bonxies looking up and catching sight of the trig point beneath the clouds on the summit of North Hill. Providing a fixed position from which triangulation can occur, these pillars allow land to be abstracted into grids, and accurately mapped. But to be amidst this unravelling ecosystem is to feel unmoored from the certainties such spatial imaginings promise. The island is not a space of fixity, but one of flux. Its moods change with the weather fronts that pass so rapidly overhead. Further, its small size does not equate to simplicity—it is a locus of complexity, where drifts of matter and lives snag and are held for various lengths of time. Deeply entangled ecologies bloom over evolutionary time. Their being, again, is not fixed, but fluctuates and transforms. Worlds are co-shaped; ways of being are re-negotiated in every moment between organisms themselves, and with a world that changes around them. The character of space gathers, coheres, and transforms through relations.

The idea of the island as a place with fixed boundaries also begins to break down. On a simple level, its erosion is an ongoing process. The coastlines change shape almost daily; the sandy eastern shore especially so. But the island also reveals a deeper porosity. This is perhaps made most visible through the H5N1 virus itself. Celia Lowe (2010) writes how viruses, rather than existing as well-bounded organisms are quasi-species that form and enact their identities with others. The virus blurs the boundaries between bodies, between species. As she puts it, multiple ways of being are:

 ‘transformed amid encounters among viruses[:] the immune systems of animal hosts, and the human institutions that struggle to reckon with the specter of a terrifying pandemic. One can think, then, of [the space of the virus as] “multispecies clouds,” collections of species transforming together in both ordinary and surprising ways.’ (Ibid., 626)

I find I have begun to draw imaginative connections between these viral clouds, and the haar that at times glides in and envelops the island. The viral cloud is transformational. It affects and alters my being, even if infection is avoided. Indeed, it is impossible not to be pulled apart emotionally whilst witnessing the individual suffering of so many birds.

The melancholy fact is that we exist in a world of change, and live long enough to notice long-term declines. We might remember the abundance of the past and compare that memory to how things are now, and wish to return. I often fear this is an impossibility. We might also find solace in the promise of deep, evolutionary futures; with the prospect that at some point life’s richness will repair itself. But, this argument disavows the beauty that still surrounds us amidst these unravelling worlds, and leads towards the easy options of acceptance and inaction. Just as the haar collapses distances, the viral cloud holds us in the present, and in proximity with intense vulnerability.

(C) Milo Newman

Some days it feels like enough research just to walk out amidst the blurred, rain-filled light onto the hill and watch the remaining skuas wheeling over the darkened ground of their territories, white flashing from their wings. As I sit in the midst of such relation, I feel that we should not quietly accept the injustices that ripple into this shared realm.


LOWE, C. 2010. VIRAL CLOUDS: Becoming H5N1 in Indonesia. Cultural Anthropology, 25, 625-649.

ROSE, D. B. 2012. Multispecies Knots of Ethical Time. Environmental Philosophy, 9, 127-140.

ROSE, D. B., VAN DOOREN, T. & CHRULEW, M. 2017. Introduction: Telling Extinction Stories. In: DEBORAH BIRD ROSE, T. V. D. A. M. C. (ed.) Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations. New York: Columbia University Press.

VAN DOOREN, T. 2014. Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, New York, Columbia University Press.


Read the original post on Milo’s website.

Upcoming talk // Fields Into Factories: Scotland’s Unexplored Second World War

On Wednesday 5th October, at 7p.m. Gary Willis (History, University of Bristol) will be presenting a free online talk entitled: ‘Fields Into Factories: Scotland’s Unexplored Second World War‘.

His talk will be based on his nearly-completed PhD thesis, which looks at the impact on the British rural and peri-urban landscape of the network of Royal Ordnance Factories and military aircraft factories that were built by the State in the run-up to and during the Second World War.

These military-industrial sites were constructed very rapidly under conditions of national emergency between 1937 and 1942 – thereby short-circuiting the in any case  weak civic planning consultation processes that existed at the time.  They produced war materials which by their very nature were dispensable and in the case of ammunition could be used once-only – and by 1945 the vast majority of these sites were no longer required for the purpose for which they were built, leaving a lasting imprint on the British landscape.  Further proof, if it was needed, of the wastefulness of the war-making process.

The environmental and historical significance of military-industrial sites – as opposed to say, military airfields – is that the former represented a nearly always exclusive and permanent change in use of the land of the landscapes they occupied – whereas many military airfields shared their sites with agriculture even during the war, and many airfields were transferred back into civil agricultural use at the end of the war.

The impact on the landscape of militarisation is only one side of the story that Gary will explore however. He will also explain how the contours of landscapes, geology, and climate were active agents in influencing the location and form that this militarisation took in Scotland.  He will look in particular at the decision-making process for the location of a Royal Ordnance Factory in Scotland which subsequently became ROF Bishopton, near Paisley, west of Glasgow.

Registration is via Eventbrite

Roundup of opportunities received this week

We receive notifications of environmental humanities events and opportunities, and want to share a few we have received in the past couple of weeks.

New Master’s Program “Environment and Society” (RCC, LMU Munich)

CfA: Doctoral Candidate Positions (4 years): “Learning ‘Nature’: A Cross-Cultural Ethnography of Children’s Relationships to the Non-Human World” (RCC, LMU Munich)

Intensive Summer School: Environment and Society in Turkish and Global Contexts (Ibn Haldun University & Penn State University, in Istanbul)

New Master’s Program “Environment and Society” (RCC, LMU Munich)

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) at LMU Munich invites applications for its master’s program “Environment and Society,” which will start in winter 2022/23. The program is designed to equip students concerned about human impact on the planet with the interdisciplinary knowledge and humanistic understanding that practitioners and scholars need to tackle key social and environmental challenges in constructive ways ensuring sustainable and just futures for all. Further information about the program can be found on its website. The application deadline for the Winter Semester 2022/2023 start is 31 May 2022.

For prospective students interested in learning more about the MA “Environment and Society” and its application process, the program’s coordinators are offering two information sessions during this year’s application period. Each of these meetings will provide more detailed information about the MA and the application process, as well as include short Q&A sessions during which prospective students may ask questions of the program’s coordinators.

Registration for the info sessions is free but required. The dates and links to register for attendance are listed below:

Info Session 1: 13 April 2022, 11:00 CET (GMT+1), register here.

Info Session 2: 5 May 2022, 16:00 CET (GMT+1), register here.

Questions about the program or the application process may also be directed at envhum@rcc.lmu.de.

CfA: Doctoral Candidate Positions (4 years): “Learning ‘Nature’: A Cross-Cultural Ethnography of Children’s Relationships to the Non-Human World” (RCC, LMU Munich)

The Volkswagen Foundation “Freigeist” Research Group “Learning ‘Nature’: A Cross-Cultural Ethnography of Children’s Relationships to the Non-Human World” invites applications for two funded doctoral positions (salary group TV-L 13, 65%, 4 years, additional funds for field research available). Deadline is 15 May 2022.

The doctoral candidate will research how cultural practices of socialization shape children’s understandings of the nonhuman world and reproduce specific modes of interacting with the environment. Possible research focuses include children’s morality, children’s relationship with “nature,” children interactions with nonhumans, ecological pedagogies, etc. Preference will be given to candidates who plan to undertake their fieldwork in intentional/utopian communities with a strong focus on ecological or pedagogical issues. The candidate is expected to carry out one year of ethnographic field research and to be fluent in the language of the field site. The candidate is also expected to conduct independently their original research project within the general themes of the project. A master’s degree in the social sciences is required (social anthropology, psychology, education, environmental studies, etc.). The successful applicant will actively contribute to project team activities, together with the PI and the postdoc, such as reading groups and the organization of workshops. Experience in interdisciplinary research is a plus.

Disciplinarily grounded in anthropology, with methodological and analytical inputs from developmental psychology and linguistic anthropology, the research group investigates how understandings of and interactions with the nonhuman world are shaped by early, culturally-specific socialization practices. The project looks at how different socialization practices give rise to distinctive phenomenological and moral experiences of nature and the nonhuman world and how such experiences have an impact on the ways in which the environment is conceptualized and lived. The broader scope of this project is to lay the groundwork for a better appreciation of culturally-specific processes of learning about the nonhuman world and to gain practical insights that can inform educational interventions. Each member of the research team will focus on one particular case study and will independently conduct research, but the project includes periods of collaboration to foster connections, consistency, and comparison. Potential candidates are invited to suggest a specific research focus and field site that can contribute to the overall goals of the project.

The Learning “Nature” Research Group is based at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC), a joint initiative of Ludwig Maximilian University Munich and the Deutsches Museum. The RCC is the largest Center for Advanced Study in the environmental humanities worldwide and hosts numerous international scholars working on environmental topics. The doctoral candidate will be based in Munich and affiliated with the doctoral program in Environment and Society at the RCC. The doctoral candidate will engage with and profit from the RCC’s lively research community, its regular Colloquia series and workshops, as well as interactions with scholars working across the environmental humanities.

Please submit your application by 15 May 2022 as a single PDF to francesca.mezzenzana@rcc.lmu.de with the subject: Freigeist PhD position.

The following documents are required:

  • An academic curriculum vitae (including publications and awards, if applicable);
  • A letter of motivation in which you summarise a) your experience and interests; b) why you are applying for this position; and c) why you are the best candidate (2 pages max);
  • A project outline detailing the proposed regional case study as well as a sketch of how you would address the topic theoretically and methodologically (2 pages max);
  • Your master’s thesis (if in a language other than English, please provide a table of contents and a summary of max. 5 pages in English)
  • The names and contact information of two academic referees (NB: these will only be contacted if you are shortlisted).

Interviews for the position will be held in late May/June 2022. The position will begin in October 2022 at the earliest.

For applicants unfamiliar with the German academic system, a TV-L 13 65% position provides a liveable salary, full tuition, and benefits including full healthcare, pension contributions, six weeks paid vacation, and parental leave (if required). As the candidate will be a state employee, they are required to have German health insurance and to make contributions to the German tax and social welfare system. Please note that knowledge of German language is not required for this position. Working hours are flexible, and the RCC offers a family-friendly working environment. The RCC can also assist, if necessary, with work permits and visas. We especially seek applications from qualified individuals with disabilities and welcome applications from women.

For further information and questions regarding the position, please contact the PI Dr. Francesca Mezzenzana (francesca.mezzenzana@rcc.lmu.de).

Click here to download pdf.

Intensive Summer School: Environment and Society in Turkish and Global Contexts (Ibn Haldun University & Penn State University, in Istanbul)

The departments of history at Ibn Haldun University and Penn State University are happy to announce an intensive summer school on environmental history titled, “Environment and Society in Turkish and Global Contexts.”

An Intensive Summer School on Environment and Society in Turkish and Global Contexts, June 13-24, 2022, Süleymaniye Complex, Istanbul

The departments of history at Ibn Haldun University and Penn State University are happy to announce an intensive summer school on environmental history titled, “Environment and Society in Turkish and Global Contexts.”

The program will run for two weeks and is comprised of lectures, discussion sessions, and field trips around the historic capital Istanbul. It will feature some of the most prominent figures in the field, including:

  • Halil Berktay (Ibn Haldun University, Turkey)
  • Lisa Brady (Boise State University, USA)
  • Suraiya Faroqhi (Ibn Haldun University, Turkey)
  • John R. McNeill (Georgetown University, USA)
  • Julia Adeney Thomas (Notre Dame University, USA)

The program will be held at the iconic Süleymaniye Complex, built in the middle of the sixteenth century by Sultan Süleyman I.

Tuition: $400 (includes lunches, tea/coffee, and field trips)

Seats are limited to 20 people

Application: To apply, please submit your CV and a short letter of interest to summerschool@ihu.edu.tr


  • Application deadline: April 15, 2022
  • Decision notification: April 22, 2022
  • Program dates: June 13-24, 2022

If you have questions about the program and housing recommendations, please feel free to e-mail the IHU Summer School Deputy Directorate at summerschool@ihu.edu.tr

Organized by Fatih Çalışır (Ibn Haldun University) and Faisal Husain (Penn State University).

PhD funding, Augsburg/Munich – Rethinking Environment: The Environmental Humanities and the Ecological Transformation of Society

The University of Augsburg and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich invite applications for 12 Doctoral Positions in their new International Doctorate Program (IDK) funded by the Elite Network of Bavaria. Deadline: 15 April 2021

From the Rachel Carson Centre website:

Based at the Environmental Science Center WZU (Augsburg) and the Rachel Carson Center (Munich), the program offers a unique opportunity to pursue a PhD degree under the supervision of faculty from both universities: each doctoral student will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team. Participating disciplines include American Studies, Anthropology, Didactics of Geography, Economics, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Humanities, Environmental Philosophy, History, Human Geography, Iberian & Latin American Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and Theology. Languages are English and German. The program is continuously supported by international guest professors, experienced practitioners, and creative artists/writers whose work focuses on environmental topics.

We offer positions (65%, TVL-13) to twelve doctoral students for a period of three years who want to explore the topic of the IDK from an interdisciplinary perspective. Possible topics can be found on the IDK website. In addition to these funded positions, there is a limited number of non-funded doctoral affiliations (“Promotionsplätze”) available for candidates who have already obtained external PhD funding. The IDK starts on 1 October 2021.

We welcome applications from all participating disciplines and particularly encourage interdisciplinary proposals. Applicants must have a completed degree (M.A., M.Sc. or equivalent) with above average grades in one of the participating disciplines. Submissions should include the online application form (available from our website), a letter of motivation (400 words max.), a short CV (max. 2 pages), a PhD proposal (max. 1800 words, including abstract and timeline), copies of your university degree(s), a recent publication (e.g. peer-reviewed article, book chapter), or your final thesis if applicable. The application may be written in either English or German. Please make sure to send all documents and certificates electronically as a single pdf file (up to 8 MB).

Applicants are expected to speak either German or English fluently upon entering the program. If you have no knowledge of one of them, you are expected to acquire basic skills in that language during the first year of the program (both universities offer language courses).

Reflecting the participating universities’ commitment to excellence, we seek to increase the diversity of our doctoral student body to support this objective and particularly encourage applicants from underrepresented groups and regions. We especially welcome applications from qualified women. Our Universities stand up for compatibility of family and professional life. For more information, please contact our women’s representative offices. This position is suitable for the severely disabled. In the case of equally qualified candidates, applicants with disabilities will be given preference.