Report from PhD course in Environment and Climate History

Peder Anker, professor of history, shares thoughts on the PhD course "Environmental and Climate History: The Role of History in Society” that took place at the University of Oslo in December 2019.

artwork, colour pencils, wooden, field, sky

Photo: "Colour pencils" by Jonna Pohjalainen.

Does the call for climate adaptation require a reevaluation of the way that historians think about history? From December 16-18, 2019, about ten doctoral students from various parts of Europe (mostly from Norway) met to investigate this question. Climate change entails a deeper timeline reaching back centuries and even millennia, and it involves including the agency of a non-human force – climate – in the historical trajectory. In the course we discussed new methodologies for historians to use in order to better understand human adaptation to climate change in the past. Climate change has shaped human belief systems, initiated political and social processes, and reshaped the human condition economically, socially, and environmentally. How do you reconcile the timescale of the climatologists with time as it is understood by historians? Can deep histories be a bridge between “the two cultures” in academia: the natural scientists and the humanists?


In the course, co-sponsored by a Community Building Grant from Oslo School of Environmental Humanities, we took up this challenge by fostering debate among scholars working on climate change from different approaches, scales, and temporalities, including those from Indigenous, feminist, decolonial, and post-humanities scholars and students. Can history and environmental humanities scholarship open up possibilities for rethinking the ways climate change is framed in public and scientific debate? What does it imply to acknowledge that the apocalypse is not only a fear for the future but a memory from the past? How can we combine long term and planetary scale of analysis with a socially sensitive approach towards inequalities and differential responsibilities? We invited historians to come together to discuss these questions, with Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo as our institutional home. The debate took place in lieu of the Norwegian Graduate School in History’s course “Environmental and Climate History: The Role of History in Society”.


Lectures for the course included Peder Anker, New York University and the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo. Marco Armiero, Director of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm. Dominik Collet, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo. Kjetil Fallan, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo. Gregory Ferguson-Cradler, Deparment of Geography, University of Bergen. Emil Henrik Flatø, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo. Nina Kristiansen, Editor-in-chief of Forskning.noPer Fredrik Ilsaas Pharo, The Norwegian Ministry of Environment.

Tags: Environment, Climate, History, Environmental Humanities By Peder Anker
Published Jan. 31, 2020 2:56 PM - Last modified Feb. 1, 2020 11:17 PM