The Cultural History of Climate Change

Call for papers

Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, 27 – 28 August, 2012

Historians since Herodotus have argued that climates shape cultures. We can no longer ignore the fact that cultures also shape climates. Today’s climate is increasingly a material effect of the history of industrialisation. The climate of the coming centuries will be an effect of contemporary global society. Recognition of these interactions opens a significant new field to historical inquiry. It brings the economic, political and technological history of the carbon cycle together with cultural, aesthetic and literary reflections of climate, and links the emergence of ecological thinking to broader transformations in the organization of knowledge. Acknowledging that the climate is cultural compels us to rethink many existing forms of historical understanding. It challenges traditional notions of the historical period, of collective and individual agency, of the narrative forms of historiography, and of the basic distinction between natural and human history. It demands new ways of relating the existential and historical moments of human knowledge and action to the dimensions of geological and evolutionary time.

The cultural history of climate change will be of central importance to social, cultural and political debates of the Twenty-First Century. To provide a speculative survey of this field, the Humanities Research Centre will hold a special conference on this theme on 27 and 28 August, 2012, in Canberra, Australia.

Proposals are invited for papers that either:
• examine episodes, works or themes that fall within the cultural history of climate change; or
• address the conceptual challenges posed to historical inquiry by anthropogenic climate change.

Please submit proposals of up to 300 words to tom [dot] ford [at] anu [dot] edu [dot] au by 18 May 2012