Nature and the Social Order since the 1970s

Isabel Oakes's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
November 28, 2022
Location: 
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Intellectual History, World History / Studies, Contemporary History

University of Oxford, 22-24 May 2023

Location: Maison Française d’Oxford

From notions of the social order to the sciences, and from international treaties to the politics of family, gender, and sexuality, modern debates have long hinged – implicitly or explicitly – on questions of what nature is, what is to be done with it, and what human activities fall under its domain. The period since the 1970s has seen a broad and unique flourishing of different nature concepts in academia as well as the political and cultural spheres. Disputes about the governance of the natural world have been central to the legitimacy of different political regimes and their economic doctrines across the globe. One prominent context for such ideas has of course been the looming spectre of environmental catastrophe, fuelling the rise of new social movements, as well as novel global governance structures and expert institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In addition, various intellectual shifts – such as feminism, poststructuralism and decolonization – have criticized the nature/culture and spirit/matter binaries and their political and economic logic as Western epistemic constructs. But conversely, we can see the persistence and development of biological understandings of society, including sociobiology, neo-eugenics, and transhumanism. Although such themes are subject to major debate in their respective fields, attempts at historicising nature across contexts are scarce. We are therefore organising a workshop on Nature and the Social Order since the 1970s, seeking contributions from scholars working in the fields of intellectual and cultural history, history of science and the environment, as well as related disciplines such as political theory and anthropology. We welcome papers that attempt to historicize the idea of nature and related concepts in the period since the 1970s, particularly those that examine broader links across disciplines and ideologies. We are also especially grateful for submissions with a global or a non-Western perspective. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Nature and ideologies (such as neoliberalism and socialism)
  • Environmentalism, ecology and the political function of science
  • Constructivism and human nature
  • Nature, gender, and sexuality
  • Technology and nature
  • Biology and other sciences’ role in defining human nature(s)
  • Concepts of nature and race
Contact Info: 

To apply, please send us an abstract of up to 300 words by Monday 28 November 2022. We hope to be able to support travel and/or accommodation for a limited number of presenters without access to institutional funding.

Advisory Board: Prof. David Priestland

Organising Committee: Isabel Oakes, Daniel McAtteer, Martin Babička

Contact Email: