New Earth Histories Research Program

New Earth Histories brings the history of geosciences and the history of select world cosmologies together. Our aim is to produce a fresh and cosmopolitan history of environmental sciences, analysing the significance of geological time and multiple cosmologies for global modernity itself.

Director

Professor Alison Bashford, FBA, FAHA, FRHistS
E: a.bashford@unsw.edu.au

Alison Bashford is Director of the New Earth Histories Research Program. Her research connects the history of science, global history, and environmental history into new assessments of the modern world, from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

She has recently moved to UNSW from Cambridge, where she was Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History.

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Program Manager

Dr Jarrod Hore
E: j.hore@unsw.edu.au

Jarrod Hore is an environmental historian of settler colonialism and Australian geology. His work on settler colonial identity, landscape photography, early environmentalism and antipodean Romanticism has been published in Australian Historical Studies, History Australia and the Australian Book Review. Jarrod holds a PhD from Macquarie University (2019) and in 2020 he is the David Scott Mitchell Memorial Fellow at the State Library of New South Wales.

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Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Emily Kern
E: e.kern@unsw.edu.au
T: @kern_em

Emily Kern is a historian of modern global science who specialises in the history of human evolution and paleoanthropology. She is currently at work on a book about the long history of the African origins hypothesis and the search for the cradle of humankind. Her research focuses on the relationship between the production of scientific knowledge about the human species and the production of global political power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. 2012) and Princeton University (Ph.D. 2018). At Princeton, she was awarded a Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship (2017-2018) and held a Graduate Prize Fellowship from the University Center for Human Values (2016-2017).

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Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Adam Bobbette
E: a.bobbette@unsw.edu.au

Adam Bobbette is a geographer with training in philosophy, cultural studies, architecture and landscape. His research relates to the intersections of people with vulnerable and volatile environments. Following a PhD from Cambridge, he is working on a book, “At Earth’s Edge: The Political Geology of Indonesia”, that focuses on the intersection of politics and geology through the lens of Indonesia’s volcanoes.

 

Distinguished Visitors

Professor Pratik Chakrabarti, FRHistS 
University of Manchester

Pratik Chakrabarti is Chair in History of Science and Medicine at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester. Pratik holds a PhD from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has held numerous positions in India and the United Kingdom since 2000. Pratik’s contributed widely to the history of science, medicine, and global and imperial history, spanning South Asian, Caribbean and Atlantic history from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. He has published four sole-authored monographs and several research articles in leading international journals on the history of science and medicine. 

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Professor Nigel Clark 
University of Lancaster

Nigel Clark is Professor of Human Geography at the Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster. Nigel’s scholarship engages themes at the heart of the environmental humanities such as the relationship between humans and nature, the social studies of science and technology, more-than-human ethnography and extinction studies. He has contributed widely to debates around the human consequences of the emerging geological epoch of the Anthropocene. Nigel’s work has been published in top journals within the fields of the environmental humanities and human geography and is recognised for its cutting-edge, creative and agenda setting qualities. 

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Professor Naomi Oreskes
Harvard University

Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of History and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. A world-renowned geologist, historian and public speaker, she is a leading voice on the role of science in society and the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Naomi is the author of 7 books and over 150 articles, essays and opinion pieces, including Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury, 2010), The Collapse of Western Civilization (Columbia University Press, 2014), Discerning Experts (University of Chicago Press, 2019), and Why Trust Science? (Princeton University Press, 2019). Naomi's numerous awards and prizes include the 2019 Geological Society of America Mary C. Rabbit Award, the 2019 British Academy Medal, the 2016 Stephen Schneider Award for outstanding Climate Science Communication, the 2015 Herbert Feis Prize of the American Historical Association for her contributions to public history, and the 2014 American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society. She is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. 

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News 

  • Alison Bashford has recently featured alongside other leading historians of public health, epidemics, and disaster science in the Los Angeles Review of Books. They were asked to reflect on how history is being used in the coverage of COVID-19, how it has impacted on their scholarship, and what tools we have for understanding pandemics.
  • Jarrod Hore's essay 'Reckoning with Urgency: Crisis & Radical Environmental History' was recently published by the Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network in their new 'Insights' series. Jarrod's essay responds to a new Forum in 'History Australia' dedicated to 'Doing History in Urgent Times.
  • Alison Bashford and Pratik Chakrabarti, University of Manchester, have been awarded an international network seed grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), Gondwanaland and Antipodal Histories.
  • Adam Bobbette, Latu Latai (Malua Bible School), and Sarina Theys (Newcastle), have been awarded a British Academy seed funding grant for "Churches, Science and Climate Change,” integrating climate science and theology in the Pacific.
  • Emily Kern has been awarded a 2019 Division of History of Science and Technology dissertation prize from the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology for her dissertation “Out of Asia: a global history of the scientific search for the origins of humankind, 1800-1965,” (Princeton University, April 2018).
  • Jarrod Hore has been awarded the David Scott Mitchell Memorial Fellowship at the State Library of New South Wales for his project 'Grounding Colonial Science'. During 2020 Jarrod will explore the vast archive of a leading colonial geologist, and reflect on how he saw, and wrote about, the Australian landscape, and the impact those responses generated in his thinking about science.
  • Shaping the New World: World-leading historian Alison Bashford has always been interested in how the past shapes our present. Read more on shaping the new world.

 

Events

Decolonizing Geology

Adam Bobbette will convene a panel of scholars to discuss deep time, concepts of earth, Aboriginal geology, resources, whose earth knowledge has power and why. The panel features Professor Cin-Ty Lee (Earth Science, Rice), Dr Ruth Gamble (Archeology and History, La Trobe), and Dr Christopher Wilson (Archeology, Flinders). This free online discussion will be hosted at 12pm AEST on the 3rd of July. Registrations here.

Is Deep History White? - A Lecture and Roundtable

Distinguished Visiting Professor Pratik Chakrabarti questions the epistemological premises of deep history and mounts an argument that it is complicit in the Western and colonial appropriation of global nature, time, myths and capital. This online lecture is scheduled for 1pm AEST on the 14th of July. It will be followed on the 15th of July at 3.30pm AEST by a roundtable featuring Prof Chakrabarti, historians Prof Lynette Russell (Monash), Prof Ann McGrath (ANU), Dr Ben Silverstein (ANU) and Dr Emily Kern (UNSW). Chaired by Prof Alison Bashford, the panel will discuss the whiteness of deep history, the characteristics of European naturalism, and the enchantment and disenchantment of the natural world. Registrations for both events here.

Deep History and Science in Conversation: The Anthropocene

Alison Bashford is joining Professor Joan Leach, Director of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and eminent climate scientist Professor Will Steffen on Tuesday 23rd of June to discuss deep history, human and natural sciences and the Anthropocene. This free online discussion will be hosted by ANU's Research Centre for Deep History. Registrations here.

Traversing New Earth Histories - A Reading Group 

Ongoing. Meetings held online on Zoom, for event dates and connection details, please email newearthhistories@unsw.edu.au 

Traversing New Earth Histories is a new series of online gatherings and discussions convened by early career scholars at UNSW and sponsored by the New Earth Histories Research Program and the State Library of New South Wales. 

These meetings will provide a space to reflect on the various interdependent histories of environments, humans and the planet itself and discuss what we can learn from different scholarly approaches to earth history. 

We will read fresh work across the fields of the history of science, environmental history, geography and the environmental humanities and examine concepts such as scale, space and deep time. 

This grouping will begin building a new community of scholars in Sydney interested in the particular problems and exciting opportunities of earth history.

 

New Earth Histories Conference

December 04-06 2019, UNSW City Campus

New Earth Histories hosted over twenty-five scholars from Australia, the United States, England and Asia at a conference that focused the cosmopolitan history of environmental and Earth sciences. Speakers analysed the significance of geological time and multiple cosmologies for global modernity in a series of illuminating and inventive discussions. Final comments were delivered by Distinguished Visitor Prof Naomi Oreskes and Prof Sverker Sörlin.

 

Coastal Waters & Terraqueous Histories of the Pacific

April 11, 2019: Alison Bashford’s Terraqueous Histories frames analysis of the Pacific at American Society for Environmental History conference.

Panel at the American Society for Environmental History, Columbus, Ohio.

  • Jakobina Arch: Whitman College
  • Daniel Margolies: Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Jason Michael Colby: University of Victoria
  • Mary X. Mitchell: Purdue University
  • Alison Bashford: University of New South Wales

Alison Bashford, 'Beyond Quarantine Critique', Somatosphere, March 6 2020.

Emily Kern, 'Archaeology enters the ‘atomic age’: a short history of radiocarbon, 1946–1960', British Journal for the History of Science, 2020.

Alison Bashford, ‘On nations and states: a reflection on ‘Thinking the Empire Whole’, History Australia, 16, no. 4 (2019), 638-641. 

Alison Bashford, Chris Otter, John L. Brooke, Frederik A. Jonsson, and Jason Kelly, 'Roundtable: The Anthropocene in British History,' Journal of British Studies, 57, no. 3 (2018), 568-596. 

Adam Bobbette, 'Singing Disappearance: Javanese Songbird Competitions and the Ventriloquizing of Extinction,' Cabinet, 66, (Spring 2018-Winter 2019). 

Alison Bashford, ‘Deep Genetics: Universal History and the Species’, History and Theory, 57, no. 2 (2018): 313-22.  

Adam Bobbette and Amy Donovan, eds. 'Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life,' Palgrave/Macmillan, 2018.

Alison Bashford (ed.), 'Oceanic Histories,' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). Co-editor with David Armitage and Sujit Sivasundaram.

Alison Bashford, ‘Terraqueous Histories,’ The Historical Journal, 60, no. 1 (2017): 1–20.

Cultures of Plate Tectonics

Zeynep Oğuz, Adam Bobbette

The adoption of plate tectonics in the 1960s as scientific orthodoxy was one of the most profound scientific revolutions of the 20th century. It transformed the status quo understanding of the earth system, its history, and evolution. By combining existing explanations of the earth into a new unity, the narrative created a novel, late 20th century imaginary that continues to shape our understanding of the earth.

While the history of the science of plate tectonics is well enough documented, its cultural and political consequences are not. For such a profound change in understanding, scholars have not sufficiently traced its effects.

How did plate tectonics change everyday life, political projects, and imaginaries, in the late 20th century and into the 21st?

Some of the questions we intend to address with this special issue are: How did plate tectonics create new forms of belonging and togetherness, theories of race and ethnicity? In what ways did it transform religion and myth? How does it shape ongoing political struggles over territory, indigenous rights, and epistemologies? How did it speed up, expand, or create new extractive machines, techniques, and intersect with theories of sovereignty and environmental law?

The approach of this is inspired by the geological turn of the past decade which has called for a greater appreciation of the intersections between geological material, the geological sciences, and modern culture. The Anthropocene has raised awareness of the intersections between geology and society, while concepts of 'geosocial formations' and ‘geopoetics' have sought in their own ways to theorise the intersections between geology and culture. The emerging enthusiasm for non-Western traditions of geological and cosmological knowledge have provincialized Western geology and from this has emerged a new attention to “new earth histories” that de-emphasize the exceptionalism of Western geological science. This special issue seeks to understand how plate tectonics was informed by non-Western cosmologies and how it, in turn, hybridized with world cosmologies.

Send abstracts of 400-500 words to a.bobbette@unsw.edu.au. Our aim is to compile research essays for a special issue.

New Earth Histories Research Program

Morven Brown Building, Rms 243-247

University of New South Wales

Email: newearthhistories@unsw.edu.au