WEBINAR: The ‘Palaeoenvironmental Humanities’. Understanding and Writing About Deep Environmental History. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion

How to better understand predicaments of environmental uncertainty? Felix Riede, Professor of Climate Change Archaeology and Environmental Humanities and OSEH Professor II, presents the 'palaeoenvironmental humanities' and its prospects to open up new interpretive and comparative terrain for the examination of human-climate relations.

Sky, people, rain, bird, globe and many more things. Illustration.
Photo: Hussain and Riede

Environmental uncertainty, climate change and ecological crisis loom large in the present and permeate scenarios of potential futures. To understand these predicaments and prepare for catastrophic scenarios, there have been repeated calls to explore the diverse human-climate relations of human societies in the past. The archaeological record offers rich, long-term datasets on human-environment articulations reflected in material culture and its relational entanglements. Much of these human-environment conjugations are, in the absence of written records, only accessible archaeologically, yet that discipline has played little role in the ‘environmental turn’ of the humanities or the climate change debate more broadly. Situated at the confluence of eco-criticism, environmental history, environmental archaeology, computational humanities, palaeoecology and earth-system science, and motivated by the ambition to articulate archaeological research traditions with contemporary concerns around future climate change, I frame the notion of the palaeoenvironmental humanities: a deep-time training ground for current ideas and theories on the interrelationship of human behaviour, climate and environmental change.

The key objective of the palaeoenvironmental humanities is to offer a rejoinder between ecological reductionism and the adoption of full-scale environmental relativism, opening up new interpretive and comparative terrain for the examination of human-climate relations. The vast temporalities of the Pleistocene promote alternative imaginaries of the human-climate nexus and the particular position of archaeology as an epistemologically omnivorous discipline spread out between the natural and human sciences allows for exciting bridge-building. By the same token, and precisely because archaeological data speak to the salient linkages between climate and society, practitioners are, I argue, increasingly obliged to engage with these societal dimensions and to reflect eco-critically on their own writings.


Felix Riede is associated with OSEH as Professor II, and holds a position as Professor of Climate Change Archaeology and Environmental Humanities at Aarhus University in Denmark. Riede is an evolutionarily- and ecologically-minded prehistorian who has developed a signature ‘palaeoenvironmental’ approach that fuses the traditional archaeological attention to human-environment relations across time with the narrative and ethical awareness of the environmental humanities.


About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 10-15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome.

Tags: Environmental Humanities, HF, IKOS, OSEH, Archeology, History, Climate Change, Ecology
Published Feb. 21, 2020 6:43 PM - Last modified Apr. 8, 2020 9:13 AM