Annual Pierre du Bois Doctoral Workshop

Modernising Landscapes: New Histories of Development and the Environment between Europe and the World

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The first Annual Pierre du Bois Doctoral Workshop, organized by the Graduate Institute in partnership with the Pierre du Bois Foundation, will take place at Maison de la Paix on 22 October 2021 on the topic of “Modernizing Landscapes: New Histories of Development and the Environment between Europe and the World”. PhD organizers of the workshop are Mona Bieling, Ahmad Fahoum, Simon Lobach, and Michele Sollai. The workshop will consist of presentations by doctoral students who will receive feedback by the three invited experts Antoine Acker, Emily Brownell and Helen Curry. In addition, a session on career development and a roundtable on the History of Development and the Environment are planned.


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Workshop Introduction

Over the last few decades, history-writing has increasingly integrated the non-human factor as a driving force of events. Historical events are recognized to be importantly shaped by long-term biological, climatological and geological developments. From Braudel’s longue durée, to Chakrabarty’s climate-induced crisis of civilization, non-human systems in contemporary history-writing are more than a background for human actors. Environmental components, such as landscapes, animals and pathogens are increasingly taking the centre stage as full-fledged historical subjects.

Landscapes ranging from tropical forests to deserts have existed in symbiotic relationships with their inhabitants since long before colonisation. In fact, local ways of life, agricultural practices, and other uses of the environment, were often more productive in the long run than was perceived by incoming colonial powers. These landscapes developed their own histories and dynamics before and beyond the interaction with colonial rule and related modernising interventions.

This workshop follows one crucial issue in this historiography: the relationship between landscapes and human agency under the influence of European colonialist expansion. Historians now contend that landscapes are not just mirrors of ideologies, but also shape the way in which ideologies and policies are configured and carried out. More specifically, this workshop analyses the human-landscape nexus within the historical context of colonial modernization narratives and development practices.

The workshop assembles historical case studies from different parts of the world to examine such complex attempts at rationalizing the organization of landscapes. In doing so, it brings together different historiographical fields and geographical focuses to move forward the ongoing debate on the historical relationship between human and non-human actors.



To attend the workshop (including the roundtable) in person, please fill in this form.
The roundtable (17.30-19h) on "Writing the History of Development and the Environment: Past, Present and Future Approaches" will be accessible in a hybrid format.
To join the discussion online, please join via this link.

PLEASE NOTE: Access to indoor public events is limited to attendees with a Swiss or European COVID certificate. In addition, face masks must be worn to all in-person events at the Graduate Institute.