Berlin-Brandenburg Colloquium on Environmental History Fall / Winter 2015/16

Jan-Henrik Meyer's picture
November 12, 2015 to February 19, 2016
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, European History / Studies, French History / Studies, German History / Studies, Spanish and Portuguese History / Studies

The Berlin-Brandenburg Colloquium on Environmental History announces its series of talks during the winter semester 2015/16 at Humboldt University Berlin. We are looking forward to fruitful discussion on issues ranging from anti-mass-tourism protest in Spain to the fundamental departure the industrial revolution meant for the global environment. We are particularly looking forward to John Mc Neill's talk on 19 February.

If you are interested to contribute at a later stage, please contact the organisers:

Astrid M. Kirchhof

Jan-Henrik Meyer

Berlin-Brandenburg Colloquium for Environmental History

Thursday, 12 Nov.2015         Maximilian Laun (Berlin): Tourism and the Limits to Growth: The Protest Movement on the Island of Formentera (1975-95)

Thursday, 19 Nov.2015         Astrid M. Kirchhof (Berlin/München): Die Reaktivierung des DDR Naturschutzes in der Nachkriegszeit unter den Bedingungen einer sich teilenden Welt 1945-1954

Thursday, 03.12.2015         Juliane Schlag (Hull, UK):
American Indigenous Trees in Historical and Biological Context

Thursday, 17.12.2015         Emily Brownell (Colorado, USA /Berlin): “We used to move quickly”: Considering waiting in Environmental History

Thursday, 07.01.2016         Nicolas Maughan (Marseilles, FR): Water crises management in Marseille in the early 19th century: specificities and temporalities of socio-political answers (1800-1850)

Thursday, 21.01.2016         Jana Piňosová (Bautzen):
Nationale Minderheiten und Umwelt im 20. Jahrhundert. Zwischen Konstruktion, Gestaltung und Verteidigung der Identitätsräume am Beispiel der Lausitzer Sorben

Thursday, 04.02.2016         Kevin Armitage (Ohio, USA): Hazardous Cool

Friday , 19.02.2016                John McNeill (Georgetown, USA): Global Environmental History of the Industrial Revolution: Work in (Slow) Progress
This talk will take place at the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation's headquarter in Schumannstr. 8, Berlin.


Venue:                                       Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Friedrichstraße 191-193, Entrance Friedrichstr., Lift the 5th floor, Room 5061.

Time:                                      18:00 (c.t.) – 20:00 hrs


Astrid M. Kirchhof

Jan-Henrik Meyer


The full programme can be downloaded at:

Abstracts and Bios

Donnerstag, 12.11.2015         Maximilian Laun (Berlin): Tourism and the Limits to Growth: The Protest Movement on the Island of Formentera (1975-95)

The paradigm of development and modernization dominated the Spanish policy of the 1970s and led to a previously unknown growth of mass tourism along the Mediterranean coast. While this new kind of industry was primarily designed to foster Spain’s material wealth, fundamental dissent arose over the extent and exact manner in which this transformation should be realized. This study aims to contribute to a better understanding of this phenomenon, by analysing the formation of a protest movement on the Balearic island of Formentera between 1975 and 1995. Thereby it explores the ideological evolution from a movement directed at fostering local identity, Catalan language and political autonomy, towards the gradual inclusion of ecological ideas and arguments of environmental conservation.

Short Bio:

Maximilian holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Political Science. He is currently enrolled in the joint MA programme of Global History at Freie Unversität and Humboldt Universität Berlin. His regional focus is on the Mediterranean with an emphasis on 20th century socio-economic, environmental and conceptual history. In preparation for his MA thesis he spent the last two months on Formentera to visit archives and conduct interviews.


Donnerstag, 19.11.2015         Astrid M. Kirchhof (Berlin/München): Die Reaktivierung des DDR Naturschutzes in der Nachkriegszeit unter den Bedingungen einer sich teilenden Welt 1945-1954

Trotz schwieriger politischer und wirtschaftlicher Lage nach der bedingungslosen Kapitulation Deutschlands und während der ersten Jahre der sowjetischen Besatzung wurde der Naturschutz im Grunde umgehend wieder aktiviert. Dabei setzten sich die Naturschützer mit den Folgen der zu leistenden Reparationen auseinander, suchten symbolisch und praktisch nach neuen Werten durch Natur und ihres Schutzes und führten rege Strukturdebatten über die Frage, auf welche Weise sich der Naturschutz unter den neuen Bedingungen neu aufzustellen habe und was aus der Vorkriegszeit übernommen werden könnte. Hierbei bestimmten die Bedingungen des Kalten Krieges ebenso wie der Blick „nach drüben“ immer wieder die Geschicke des ostdeutschen Naturschutzes. Der Vortrag führt in das erste Kapitel meiner Monographie ein, und zeigt die Bedingungen auf, die der DDR Naturschutz nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg vorfand; vor allem werden die Folgen des sich immer stärker anbahnenden Kalten Krieges thematisiert.

Short Bio:

Astrid Mignon Kirchhof is a Senior Research Fellow at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, within the collaborative research project History of Nuclear Energy and Society (, funded by the European Union’s Horizon2020 Framework Programme. Previously she was the Volkswagen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Georgetown University and the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC. From 2010 to 2014, she was a research associate and lecturer at the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History at Humboldt University, Berlin, and the principal investigator of the DFG-research project From nature conservation to environmental protection. Civic involvement and the transformation of the nature conservation movement in East and West Berlin between 1945 and 1990. She earned her PhD from Technical University Berlin with a dissertation published in 2011 entitled “Das Dienstfräulein auf dem Bahnhof“. Frauen im öffentlichen Raum im Blick der Berliner Bahnhofsmission 1894–1939. She is currently working on a monograph about the German Democratic Republic’s nature conservation policy during the East-West conflict (1945–1990).


Donnerstag, 03.12.2015         Juliane Schlag (Hull):
American Indigenous Trees in Historical and Biological Context

The talk will provide an outline of a PhD research project on the North American forest during the early modern transition period. In terms of methodology, the project combines research methods from ethnobotany and history. Moreover, the project seeks to enquire into the spiritual and substantial significance of trees within indigenous American communities. Important changes occurred when European settlers started to utilize trees for commercial purposes from 1640 onward. The European settlers needed timber, like the Indians, to build houses, furniture and tools, keep warm and cook; but their attitude or perception of wood as a source material differed greatly from the indigenous understanding. The project will analyze how this shift in utilization habits and perception occurred and how it came to define North Americans landscape and the formation of a New World identity.

Short Bio:

Juliane Schlag is a PhD student in the departments of History and Biology at the University of Hull, UK. By using approaches from Ethnobotany and Wood Mechanics, she investigates into wood utilization methods of indigenous North American woodland tribes and early North American settlers. Mail:


Donnerstag, 17.12.2015         Emily Brownell (Colorado/Berlin): “We used to move quickly” : Considering waiting in Environmental History

This paper poses the question, how might thinking about waiting and immobility contribute to environmental history? I will frame this discussion around my current book project, which is an environmental history of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the 1970s. In working on this project I realized how frequently the citizens of the city spent time waiting for various things, whether it was better infrastructure, more money to finish building their house, or simply waiting for the bus to arrive so they could get to work. Waiting, or, framed differently by the government, loitering, also became a way one’s presence in the city became suspect, making citizens vulnerable to being relocated in rural areas. These instances of waiting are clearly not static but rather were larger processes of negotiating and shaping an urban environment that asked much patience and perseverance of its citizens on a daily basis. I am interested in how different temporalities of waiting shape environments in the city and how to look for them in the historical record.

Short Bio:

Emily Brownell is an assistant professor in African history at the University of Northern Colorado and currently a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institut fur Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Department III.  Her current book project, Gone to Ground: An environmental history of urban crisis in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania looks at the expansive growth of Tanzania’s biggest city during the 1970s.


Donnerstag, 07.01.2016         Nicolas Maughan (Aix-Marseilles University, Marseilles):
Water crises management in Marseille in the early 19th century: specificities and temporalities of socio-political answers (1800-1850)

Up until the mid-19th century, the water supply of the city of Marseilles has always been problematic. Constrained by a mountainous topography within a dry landscape its inhabitants often coped with acute water shortages. For centuries, wells, a small medieval aqueduct and some urban springs were the only water resources. However, this issue became so pressing in the first half of the nineteenth century, thus forcing municipal officials to quickly deal with this problem. First, after describing the hydro-climatic context of the Provence area and the state of water resources of Marseille from the early 18th century to the mid-19th century, we will present major social, sanitary as well as economic crises due to the lack of water which impacted Marseilles together with their effects on the local urban dynamic. Then, we will analyze public policy answers and challenging technical choices made both by the General Council of the Bouches-du-Rhône District and the municipality to address the chronic water shortages, mainly during the construction process of the new Canal de Marseille from 1839.

Short Bio:

Nicolas MAUGHAN is conducting research in environmental sciences and in environmental history at the University of Aix-Marseille (AMU) in the city of Marseille. His research interests include urban environmental history, water pollution history, history of urban rivers and wetlands, history of water management and hydraulic technology (drainage, irrigation, water supply, sanitary facilities, flood protection and dredging), history of damming and transformation of rivers, and the history of waste and wastewater management in urban settings. He is also interested in history of climate and disasters. He especially explores Europe and the Mediterranean world in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. He is member of the European Society for Environmental Society (ESEH). Recent Publication: Maughan, Nicolas. “The Serre-Ponçon Dam and the Durance River: The Founding Act towards the most Regulated French Waterway.” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia 2015, no. 16. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.


Donnerstag, 21.01.2016         Jana Piňosová (Bautzen):
Nationale Minderheiten und Umwelt im 20. Jahrhundert. Zwischen Konstruktion, Gestaltung und Verteidigung der Identitätsräume am Beispiel der Lausitzer Sorben

Die Schaffung von Nationalstaaten in Ostmitteleuropa nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg erforderte die Einführung der Kategorie einer nationalen Minderheit. Sie war das Resultat des Konflikts zwischen dem Prinzip der Selbstbestimmung der Völker und den geostrategischen Interessen der Siegermächte. Weite Teile der europäischen Bevölkerung – unter ihnen auch die Lausitzer Sorben – wurden mit dem Ausgang der Pariser Friedensverhandlungen mit dem Status einer nationalen Minderheit versehen. Die Auseinandersetzung mit der Fremdzuschreibung drückte sich vor allem im Umgang mit den eigenen Siedlungsgebieten aus. Der Vortrag will am Beispiel der Lausitzer Sorben die Spezifika des Verhältnisses nationaler Minderheit und natürlicher Umwelt problematisieren. Ferner gilt es, die aus ihm resultierenden Handlungsstrategien im Kontext des Naturschutzes, der Diskussionen um die Verwaltungsgrenzen und dem Umgang mit unterschiedlichen Wirtschaftszweigen exemplarisch aufzuzeigen.


Short Bio:

Osteuropa- und Umwelthistorikerin, seit Oktober 2015 wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Sorbischen Institut, Bautzen, zuvor u.a. mehrere Jahre tätig bei der Stiftung Naturschutzgeschichte, Königswinter, zuletzt im Rahmen des Projektes 25 Jahre Nationalparkprogramm der DDR, 2009-2015 Promotionsstudium an der Universität Bonn (Dissertationsschrift: Inspiration Natur. Naturschutz in den böhmischen Ländern bis 1933), 2001-2006 Studium der Osteuropäischen Geschichte, Politische Wissenschaften und Erziehungswissenschaften an der Universität Bonn.



Donnerstag, 4.02.2016           Kevin Armitage (Ohio, USA): Hazardous Cool

If a single inventor embodies the unintended environmental consequences of technological innovation—and thus the necessity of studying environmental and technological change together—it is surely the inventor of leaded gasoline and the chlorofluorocarbon, Thomas Midgley Jr. (May 18, 1889 – November 2, 1944). A charismatic and brilliant chemical engineer, Midgley’s technological innovations have been so environmentally consequential that it is no exaggeration to say that he singlehandedly changed the atmosphere of planet Earth. Beyond telling the story of Midgley, this paper theorizes a new way to apply technological frame theory to understand how and why Midgley’s innovations resulted in such catastrophic unintended environmental consequences. It thus uses the example of Midgley to theorize how and why the unintended consequences of technological innovation happen and how environmental historians might think about them.

Short Bio:

Kevin C. Armitage is an Associate Professor at Miami University of Ohio who has previously worked as a research scientist, bus driver, teacher, bouncer, bartender, and commercial fisherman in Naknek, Alaska. His PhD is in American history and his research interests include American environmental and cultural history and modern social theory. He is the author of The Nature Study Movement: The Forgotten Popularizer of America’s Conservation Ethic.



Freitag, 19.02.2016                John McNeill (Georgetown, USA): Global Environmental History of the Industrial Revolution: Work in (Slow) Progress
Dieser Vortrag findet abweichend um 18 Uhr im Haus der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in der Schumannstr. 
8 statt.

                                               Diesen Vortrag präsentieren wir in Kooperation mit dem Archiv Grünes Gedächtnis der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, der New York University - NYU Berlin und dem Center for Metropolitan Studies der TU Berlin.

This talk concerns the ecological impacts of industrialization, c. 1780 to c. 1920. Environmental historians have taken stock of the pollution effects of industrialization in Britain, Germany, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. And they recognize the impacts of burning fossil fuels upon the Earth's atmosphere and climate. However, there is more to the environmental history of industrialization than that: there are "ecological teleconnections." The best leather straps for textile mills came from bison hide from the American West. The best insulation for underwater cables came from the resin of a tree found only in Southeast Asia. All the fuels, fibers, ores, and lubricants necessary for industrialization had to come from somewhere, and before 1920 most of them came more or less directly from nature. And they had to come in ever-increasing quantities. This talk considers cotton and wool, lead and copper, palm oil and whale oil among other ingredients of industrialization, and the ecological perturbations that resulted from growing, harvesting, or extracting them.

Short Bio:

J.R. McNeill has held two Fulbright awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur foundations as well as the Woodrow Wilson Center. His books include Something New Under the Sun (2000), winner of two prizes, listed by the London Times among the 10 best science books ever written (despite not being a science book), and translated into 9 languages; The Human Web (2003), translated into 7 languages; and Mosquito Empires (2010), which won the Beveridge Prize from the AHA and was listed by the Wall Street Journal among the best books in early American history. In 2010, he was awarded the Toynbee Prize for “academic and public contributions to humanity.”

Contact Info: 

Dr. Astrid Mignon Kirchhof

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Lehrstuhl für Neueste und Zeitgeschichte



Mohrenstraße 40

10117 Berlin

Raum 341

Tel.: 030-209370525

Dr Jan-Henrik Meyer

Associate Professor

Faculty of Humanities 

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)


N-7491 Trondheim

Tel. 0047-73 59 6428


Office: 6502


Contact Email: