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.

In memory of Mark Finlay

It is with great sadness we share the news that our colleague Mark Finlay, Professor of History and Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Armstrong Atlantic State University was killed last Sunday, October 6, in a car accident near his home in Savannah, Georgia. Mark was the book review editor for the journal Agricultural History, and the author of the 2009 book Growing American Rubber: Strategic Plants and the Politics of National Security, which won the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Prize. As many of you know, Mark had a new project on the sculptural and environmental history of Ossabaw Island, one of the Georgia Sea Islands. Mark was a member of Envirotech and a regular at our ASEH breakfast meetings, an all around wonderful colleague, and he will be greatly missed.

In Mark’s honor, a fund for a visiting lecture series at Armstrong Atlantic State University has been set up. If you would like to make a contribution to this fund, you can do so through a Paypal account using the form below (now closed). We will collect donations to be made on behalf of Envirotech until October 23rd.

Envirotech Travel Grant Application – SHOT 2013

The Envirotech Interest Group is pleased to announce a $400 travel grant for the upcoming SHOT conference in Portland, ME. Eligibility for the award is limited to those presenting a paper addressing the interrelated histories of environment and technology at the 2013 SHOT meeting in Portland (10-13 October 2013). Those who have completed their Ph.D. more than three years prior and are fully employed are not eligible. Independent scholars are eligible regardless of the date the Ph.D. was received. This application must be received by Monday, September 2nd, 2013. The winner will receive a check for $400 at the Envirotech meeting during the conference.

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

New book: New Natures

Envirotechies Dolly Jørgensen, Finn Arne Jørgensen, and Sara B. Pritchard have a new edited volume out – New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies, published with University of Pittsburgh PressNew Natures broadens the dialogue between the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS) and environmental history in hopes of deepening and even transforming understandings of human-nature interactions. The volume presents historical studies that engage with key STS theories, offering models for how these theories can help crystallize central lessons from empirical histories, facilitate comparative analysis, and provide a language for complicated historical phenomena. Overall, the collection exemplifies the fruitfulness of cross-disciplinary thinking.

new natures cover

Table of contents


Sara B. Pritchard – “Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies: Promises, Challenges, and Contributions”

Part I. Ways of Knowing
Anya Zilberstein – “The Natural History of Early Northeastern America: An Inexact Science”

Frank Uekotter – “Farming and Not Knowing: Agnotology Meets Environmental History”

Dolly Jørgensen – “Environmentalists on Both Sides: Enactments in the California Rigs-to-Reefs Debate”

Finn Arne Jørgensen – “The Backbone of Everyday Environmentalism: Cultural Scripting and Technological Systems”

Part II. Constructions of Environmental Expertise
Kevin C. Armitage – “The Soil Doctor: Hugh Hammond Bennett, Soil Conservation, and the Search for a Democratic Science”

Michael Egan – “Communicating Knowledge: The Swedish Mercury Group and Vernacular Science, 1965–1972”

Eunice Blavascunas – “Signals in the Forest: Cultural Boundaries of Science in Białowieża, Poland”

Part III. Networks, mobilities, and Boundaries
Tiago Saraiva – “The Production and Circulation of Standardized Karakul Sheep and Frontier Settlement in the Empires of Hitler, Mussolini, and Salazar”

Thomas D. Finger – “Trading Spaces: Transferring Energy and Organizing Power in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Grain Trade”

Stephen Bocking – “Situated yet Mobile: Examining the Environmental History of Arctic Ecological Science”

David Tomblin – “White Mountain Apache Boundary-Work as an Instrument of Ecopolitical Liberation and Landscape Change”

Valerie A. Olson – “NEOecology: The Solar System’s Emerging Environmental History and Politics”

Sverker Sörlin – “Epilogue: Preservation in the Age of Entanglement: STS and the History of Future Urban Nature”

Call for Papers: Histories of Transport, Mobility, and Environment

Journal of Transport History, Special Issue

In 1844 William Wordsworth wrote passionately about a railway that was desecrating the tranquility of the English Lake District, if not setting fire to woodland and dividing ancient fields and ecologies. Across the Atlantic in the same century, Henry Thoreau expressed gratitude that people could not yet fly “and lay waste the sky as well as the earth”.

‘Conquest’, defilement and intrusion have been labels since pinned on many transport investments and mass traveling. Deforestation, air pollution, oil spills, noise, landscape leveling, water table lowering, and habitat change have all been associated with environmentally blind infrastructure expansion and mobility in the past. Conversely, there have been transport projects linked with landscape beautification, and mobility may be said to have increased appreciation of the sanctity and fragility of wilderness. Some environmental activism has been directed at transport projects. Historians of transport and mobility as well as environmental historians have dealt with these issues, but more research is needed.

We invite scholarly contributions that examine the historical relationship between transport and mobility and the natural environment for a proposed Special Issue of the Journal of Transport History scheduled for December 2014 (vol 35 [2]). Contributions may be substantial library and archive-based research essays of 8,000 words (including endnotes and Abstract), or shorter pieces (1,500 words) for the Journal’s ‘Surveys & Speculations’ and its ‘Exhibitions & Museum Reviews’ sections.

In existence for over 50 years, The Journal of Transport History publishes scholarly research and commentary on the history of transport, travel, tourism and mobility, including their relationship with planning and policy.

The Special Issue will be guest edited Thomas Zeller, author of Driving Germany: the Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930-1970 (2007). Together with JTH editor Gordon Pirie, he will select papers based on their originality and scholarly rigour, but will also strive for broad coverage of periods, themes, continents and transport modes. Papers will be subject to a double-blind review process. Conceptually progressive research is especially encouraged. A second call will be made in June 2013. Prospective authors should contact Thomas Zeller ( and Gordon Pirie (

Final submissions for the JTH Special Environmental Issue should be lodged by 5 August 2013. More detail about the JTH, and back issues, are online at