Panel cfp, Depopulating Landscapes: Migration, Environment and Modernity in Mediterranean Europe, Council for European Studies annual conference 2020, Iceland

Joseph Viscomi's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Environmental History / Studies, European History / Studies, Geography, Immigration & Migration History / Studies

Panel Proposal for Council for European Studies annual conference, Iceland 22-24 June 2020

(conference call here:


Depopulating Landscapes: Migration, Environment and Modernity in Mediterranean Europe


Stories about depopulated towns in Mediterranean Europe have become commonplace in popular media. These sites are depicted as potential tourist havens or as dystopic locations that expose the material consequences of environmental change and modernisation. In academic scholarship, the emptying of these landscapes is frequently described as an inevitable outcome of trajectories that trace back to early-modern urbanisation. The historiography of migration, for example, continues to portray emptied towns as peripheries, opting for an approach that follows migrants and the impacts of migration out of and away from their places of origin. Few studies have located their subjects in the towns from which emigrants departed. From this gap, a transdisciplinary conversation is emerging (for example, see De Rossi 2018, del Molino 2019, Romero Renau 2018). Yet, rigorous studies of depopulation as historical process remain absent.


This panel explores how depopulated landscapes challenge knowledge about attachments between communities and their material environments. As debates about environmental change and the Anthropocene reach wide publics, scholars in the humanities and social sciences have begun examining the nexus of human and natural entanglements in new ways. Environmental history has a longer genealogy, but it tends to concentrate on agrarian political economy or large-scale industrialisation in 19th and 20th century rural contexts. Moreover, the epistemological underpinnings of this body of scholarship generally maintain strict divisions between ‘social’ and ‘natural’ histories. Emergent research in environmental change, however, questions this divide, and in doing so invites scholars to rethink the connected histories of migration and environment in the modern period.


This panel aims to examine depopulation by attending to relations between people and land within emptying landscapes. We invite papers from various disciplines that consider or connect any of the following methodological and historiographical questions:


Through which archives and material landscapes might we access histories of depopulation?

Which political and cultural practices are rendered visible by earthquakes, floods and landslides and other 'natural events' which punctuate histories of depopulation?

How do such events function as vehicles for social and political transformation?

How are emptying towns shaped parallel to urban expansion, bureaucratisation and other transregional movements?

What materials re-inhabit abandoned rural spaces?

In what ways do material histories connecting communities and land challenge understandings of European and Mediterranean centres and peripheries?


Before 30 September, please send up to 250-word abstract and a few biographical lines to:


Panel organiser: Joseph John Viscomi, Birkbeck, University of London