CFP: The 7th Tensions of Europe Conference – Technology and Environment

The 7th Tensions of Europe Conference
Stockholm, 3-6 September 2015
Conference theme: Technology and Environment

The 7th Tensions Of Europe Conference will have as its main theme the interaction between technology and the environment. One way of understanding the environment is to think of it as nature appropriated by humankind through technological, scientific and representational means. From farming to space travel, we use technologies and natural resources to sustain our lives. Our use of technologies leaves traces behind in the form of altered environments. Changes at global historical and geological scales are accumulated as heritage and geophysical strata respectively. The intersection of technology and the environment can also be understood culturally or socially. We use technology in our understanding and appreciation of nature (religious, poetic or physical), in monitoring it, assessing it representing it. Further, technology can be a lens and a tool in shaping our relation to the environment. Technologies not only assist in shaping and transforming nature, they also assist us to perceive, observe, record and communicate natures and environments, including imaginative representations of techno-natures in art, literature and film.

The conference also invites scholarship in the general themes of the Tensions of Europe network, such as trans-border flows, common resources, conflicting interests, hidden integration and cultural practices.

We not only invite traditional panel‐sessions with a number of papers and a commentator, but also strongly encourage different formats and new ideas. As long as quality can be demonstrated, the programme committee will not prioritize between formats. By quality we mean suggestions that promise constructive, stimulating and engaging discussion.

We invite scholars from all relevant fields to submit proposals to:


by 15 February 2015. All proposals should include a title, a short abstract, the academic title and affiliation of the applicant(s) and a short bio. Please name your file with your surname. Abstracts for individual papers and posters should be no more than 300 words.

For panels, we ask for a description of the theme of the panel (max 300 words) together with shorter abstracts (max 150 words) of the individual papers. If you wish to suggest a presentation of a different format, please use these word limits as guidelines.

We will inform applicants by 1 April 2015 Whether their contribution has been accepted. A second call for papers, with information about keynote speakers and the conference website, will be distributed before the end of 2014.

Welcome to Stockholm in September 2015!

Nina Wormbs Head Of Division Of History Of Science, Technology And Environment KTH Royal Institute of Technology

2014 Joel A. Tarr Prize winner announced!

Andrew Denning has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Joel A. Tarr Prize.

The members of Envirotech are pleased to announce that Andrew Denning has been selected as the winner of the 2014 Joel A. Tarr Prize for his article “From Sublime Landscapes to ‘White Gold’: How Skiing Transformed the Alps after 1930,” Environmental History 19 (January 2014): 78-108.

The Tarr Prize recognizes the best article published in a journal or edited collection on the relationship between technology and environment in history during the previous 18 months. Envirotech would also like to thank our prize committee members—Ann Greene, Steve Cutcliffe, and Ashley Carse—for their service.

Denning’s article examines the material and imaginative transformation of Alpine landscapes in the twentieth century. Writing in an engaging style, he integrates histories of environment, technology, and culture to craft a seamless narrative of landscape change in which the distinctions between these fields and their organizing categories seem superfluous. In so doing, Denning makes a compelling case for the value added by analyzing landscape change through an envirotech lens. After all, as he shows, neither ski slope managers pursuing the goal of snow security—maintaining enough “white gold” on the slopes to attract business—nor visiting tourists saw clear boundaries between nature and technology. New technologies like cable lifts, which moved skiers to existing snow at higher elevations, and snow cannons, which pumped out artificial snow, changed the industry and smoothed out the variability in weather and climate that had plagued their predecessors. In so doing, technologies embedded ski tourism in the physical and economic landscape, while reinforcing a particular vision of Alpine nature.

The major contribution of the article to Envirotech is its extension of the study of the environment-technology nexus to the study of sport and leisure. While we have learned a great deal about how nuclear, chemical, and agricultural interventions have shaped and been shaped by the non-human environment, Denning’s work reminds us that landscapes of leisure—even those that appear natural—are also engineered. Indeed, entire industries have been organized around the creation and maintenance of a natural aesthetic (a snowy mountainside, a palm-covered beach). To that end, the article draws on a wide range of theory—from Richard White’s writing on work and nature, to sociologist John Urry’s work on the consumption of place, to philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s ideas about modernity and speed—to explain why and how Alpine landscapes were produced for tourist consumption. By recognizing sports and leisure as phenomena where the environmental and the technical bleed together, Denning opens up a new space for envirotech research.

KTH PhD Student in History of Science, Technology and Environment

KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm is seeking one PhD student for the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, School of Architecture and the Built Environment. 

The PhD student position is a part of the Mistra financed program “New Governance for Sustainable Development in the European Arctic”. This program is led by Umeå University with KTH ‘s Division of history as the principal partner together with SEI, SIPRI and the European University at St. Petersburg. The program will develop a nuanced understanding of local and subnational governance challenges in the European Arctic, with the aim to increase the capacity of local and regional decision makers to make informed decisions related to sustainable development.

Those interested should refer to the full announcement, found here: KTH PhD Studentship




Envirotech 2014 SHOT Travel Grant

The Envirotech Special Interest Group is pleased to announce a $400 travel grant for the upcoming 2014 SHOT conference. Eligibility for the award is limited to those presenting a paper addressing the interrelated histories of environment and technology at the upcoming SHOT meeting in Dearborn, MI November 6-9 2014. The grant is available to current graduate students, recent Ph.D.s (earned within three years) and independent scholars. The application is due by Friday, September 19, 2014. The winner will receive a check for $400 at the Envirotech breakfast meeting during the conference.

Applicants should complete this formTravel_Grant_App_SHOT2014, and email it along with a one or two page C.V. to Any questions should be addressed to Chair, Envirotech Travel Grant, and submitted by email to

CFP: Transplanting Modernity: the Environmental Legacy of International Development

June 23-24, 2015

Washington, DC Area

Conveners: Tom Robertson of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Jenny Leigh Smith of the Georgia Institute of Technology

This two-day, NSF sponsored workshop will focus on the environmental impact technological modernization and other forms of development assistance had in the Global South during the twentieth century. Historians and other scholars interested in science, technology and environmental change will gather in the Washington DC area June 23-24, immediately before the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) Conference in Washington, DC. Conference papers of 5000-7000 words will be pre-circulated among workshop participants. Conference papers may be included in an edited volume that will be assembled after the conference. Continue reading

Call for submissions: 2014 Joel A. Tarr Envirotech Article Prize

Envirotech, a special interest group within the Society for the History of Technology and the American Society for Environmental History, invites nominations for the 2014 Joel A. Tarr Envirotech Article Prize. The Tarr Prize recognizes the best article published in either a journal or article collection on the relationship between technology and the environment in history. The prize committee is particularly interested in publications that show how studying the intersections of environment and technology can lead to new insights into historical topics. Articles originally published in any language are welcome, but applicants must provide a translation of non-English articles. To be eligible for the 2014 prize, the article must be published between November 1, 2012, and June 15, 2014.

The Tarr Prize carries a cash award of $350 and will be conferred at the Society for the History of Technology conference in Dearborn, Michigan, October 7-11, 2014.

Send one copy of your article and a brief curriculum vitae (one page Word or PDF files only please) to to be considered. The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2014. Winners will be announced in early September.

Envirotech travel grant winner

Envirotech is pleased to announce that L. Ruth Rand, a graduate student in the University of Pennsylvania’s Program in the History and Sociology of Society, is the winner of the Envirotech Travel Grant for travel to the March ASEH conference in San Francisco.

At the conference, Rand will present in the session “What Is a Disaster? A Roundtable on Risk and Disaster Research in Environmental History” where she will offer her perspective as an environmental historian of outer space and present on her research about Near-Earth space debris and the political and technological implications of declaring Near-Earth outer space a site of environmental disaster.

Many thanks to envirotech’s travel grant committee: Leslie Tomory, Maurits Ertsen, and Eve Buckley.

CFP: Green Capitalism? Exploring the Crossroads of Environmental and Business History

A conference October 30 and 31, 2014, at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware sponsored by the Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society and the German Historical Institute – DC.

This conference hopes to point to fresh opportunities for joining the insights of environmental and business history. We are especially interested in providing historical perspectives on a question of obvious relevance today: Can capitalism be green – or at least greener? Our title – “Green Capitalism?” – is admittedly drawn from contemporary discourse. But we are convinced that history can provide invaluable insights into the complex and changing relationship between business and the environment.

We invite papers that consider in specific historical contexts the extent to which the business enterprises that are central to capitalism operated in an environmentally sound or detrimental manner by the way they dealt with their refuse, by managing their use of resources, and mitigating or ignoring any harmful impact on those who handled their products or are affected by their waste. Though business activities have had many deleterious environmental consequences, businesses sometimes have acted to protect the environment, reduce their direct and indirect environmental impact, and promote environmental reform in society. That is true now, but it also was sometimes the case long before the rise of modern environmentalism.

Papers can take many forms. We expect that many papers will focus on the history of particular firms. Others may analyze historical controversies about the use of resources or the cultural, political, and environmental factors that have shaped how business treats the environment. Given the global nature of business activity and environmental concerns, we encourage papers that take a transnational perspective on these issues. The papers may address any area of the world in the industrial era, roughly after 1800.

Papers might consider, among others, the following questions:

  • In what instances, and in what ways, has business mitigated pollution and other harmful environmental impacts, for what reasons and objectives, and in what political, economic, and social contexts?
  • What were the intended and unintended consequences of the innovations instituted by businesses to mitigate their impact on the environment?
  • Why and in what context has business or business organizations advocated for government regulation of environmental conditions?
  • When, and in what specific episodes, have there been conflicts among businesses and business sectors over environmental and energy issues?
  • When and why have businesses sought to encourage changes in consumer behavior that have environmental implications?
  • In what ways have business interests drawn on or adapted environmental concerns to their business strategies?
  • How has privatization of resource allocation functions once reserved for public agencies (e.g. energy distribution, water procurement) influenced engagement with environmental issues by business?
  • How has the globalization of business activity affected the terrain of environmental concerns: where products are made, used, regulated, and discarded or recycled?
  • How has the location of environmental and resource concerns in local, regional, national, or international contexts influenced business initiatives?
  • How have business initiatives around the environment been shaped by local and national conditions, regulatory regimes, legal institutions, and/or political culture?

The program committee includes: Adam Rome (University of Delaware), Yda Schreuder (University of Delaware), Hartmut Berghoff (German Historical Institute), Erik Rau (Hagley Museum and Library), and Roger Horowitz (Hagley Museum and Library).

Proposals may be up to 500 words in length, and should include a summary of the paper’s argument, the sources on which it draws, and the larger historiographic context or contemporary debates with which it engages. A short c.v. or resume should accompany the proposal. The deadline for receipt of proposals is May 1, 2014 and should be sent via email to Carol Lockman, Presenters will receive travel support to cover most costs to attend the conference.

Envirotech Travel Grant – ASEH 2014

The Envirotech Special Interest Group is pleased to announce a $400 travel grant for the upcoming 2014 ASEH conference. Eligibility for the award is limited to those presenting a paper addressing the interrelated histories of environment and technology at the upcoming ASEH meeting in San Francisco, CA, March 12-16, 2014. The grant is available to current graduate students, recent Ph.D.s (earned within three years) and independent scholars. The application is due by Monday, December 16, 2013. The winner will receive a check for $400 at the Envirotech breakfast meeting during the conference.

Applicants should complete this form, and email it along with a one or two page C.V. to Any questions should be addressed to Chair, Envirotech Travel Grant, and submitted by email to

2013 Joel A. Tarr Article Prize awarded Ashley Carse

The members of Envirotech are pleased to announce that Ashley Carse has been selected as the winner of the 2013 Joel A. Tarr Prize for his article “Nature as Infrastructure: Making and Managing the Panama Canal Watershed,” Social Studies of Science 42 (2012): 539-563. The Tarr prize recognizes the best article published in a journal or edited collection on the relationship between technology and environment in history during the previous 18 months. Envirotech would also like to thank our prize committee members–Erik Rau, Heike Weber, and Steve Cutliffe–for their service.

In describing the Panama Canal watershed as an environmental artifact that provides infrastructural services—namely, supplying the 52 million gallons of water that flush out to sea with each of the 35-45 ships that transit the isthmus each day—Carse’s work invokes envirotech approaches expressed in the work of Joel Tarr and others—a fusion of the history of technology and STS with environmental history—while incorporating this tradition with theories and practices from postcolonial studies, political ecology, geography, anthropology, and ethnography. The result is an approach that enriches all of these fields while providing a new perspective on the human-environment relationship.

Infrastructure studies have animated the history of technology and STS for decades, but only recently has the term “infrastructure” been applied to landforms, and then, as in the work of Mark Benedict and Edward McMahon, to realize the economic contribution of ecosystems to human productivity. As Carse is aware, this shift in nomenclature, with its managerial logic, follows “a broader interdisciplinary effort since the 1980s to assign the environment value as natural capital: a stock that provides ecosystem services that benefit humans at multiple scales” (542).

In his analysis of efforts by American and Panamanian state institutions to manage the watershed and refresh the waters drained away by the canal, the interests of canal managers and engineers collide with the horticultural interests of campesinos, whose presence and farming practices are themselves an outcome of efforts to administer the watershed’s environment for different purposes. In enacting populist land redistribution policies in the 1950s and 1960s, the Panamanian government encouraged the development of agriculture by smallholders whose swidden agricultural practices (often pejoratively referred to as “slash-and-burn”) reduced watershed forests by fifty percent between the 1950s and late 1970s. By the latter date, American scientists, like Frank Wadsworth of the US Forest Service, sounded the alarm that deforestation threatened canal operations by reducing the watershed’s capacity to “produce” and store water. Although the reduction of water had several causes—drought and increased ship traffic among them—scientists, canal administrators, and other institutional actors focused on managing the interests of the horticulturalists to avoid conflict with those of the state and corporate shipping interests. Ironically, the coercive nature of these practices, especially after the canal treaty between the United State and Panama was signed in 1977, led campesinos to rotate fallow land back into use more rapidly, leading to lower fertility and the perpetuation of deforestation.

Carse’s ethnographic work reveals a complex web of relationships that elude easy characterization of motives and actions as simply good or evil. The coercive tactics of the Noriega regime in the 1980s, for instance, have been replaced by well meaning international NGOs, Peace Corps volunteers, and social and natural scientists all wanting to assist reforestation, but unwittingly abetting the growing marginalization of the campesinos. Experts may see the campesinos’ presence in the watershed as a problem, but rarely do they recognize the farmers’ swidden agricultural practices are also an artifact of a competing techno-political system. As Carse shows, rural marginalization is embodied in and experienced through technological infrastructure, particularly historical processes of connection and disconnection. One village in which Carse undertook his fieldwork, despite being situated near the canal and Panama’s largest two cities, was first electrified in 2009. By itself, this observation of competing technological visions underscores the rich possibilities that Carse’s work holds for envirotech approaches in the future.

The prize was awarded during the 2013 ASEH meeting in Toronto in April 2013. Envirotech will next offer the Joel A. Tarr Article Prize at the 2014 SHOT Conference. Papers published between November 1, 2012 and May 1, 2014 will be eligible. A call for applications will be released after May, 2014.