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Conference Notes & Letters

Call for Papers: Climate, Food & Famine in History

By Robert Naylor and Eleanor Shaw

Open to a range of time periods and disciplinary backgrounds, this workshop is concerned with the history of climate-orientated narratives in relation to food and famine. At a time of rebounding climate discourse, the use of climate-orientated narratives as explanatory devices for food shortages and famine has come under increased scrutiny. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attracted criticism in 2007 when he attributed the Dafur conflict to climate change-induced food insecurity. More recently, in 2015, Barack Obama controversially used the Syrian civil war as an example to frame climate change as a security problem: ‘It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services […] will need to factor climate change into plans and operations.’ In 2021 the World Food Programme website claimed that families ‘are stuck in a cycle of conflict, climate shocks and rising levels of hunger’ in relation to the ongoing famine in South Sudan. This workshop aims to bring academics together to provide historical context for such claims.

Relevant work includes Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts, which argues, for example, that research into hypothetical sunspot-driven climatic changes was utilised to help excuse British authorities who oversaw the Great Famine in India. Philip Slavin (2019) has presented a complex picture of the British famine of 1314-17, where agriculturalists had to face unrelenting taxes and forced food sales alongside an inclement climate. Critiques of climate attribution theses have a long history, with meteorologist Rolando Garcia’s 1981 work Nature Pleads Not Guilty disputing the climate attribution thesis of food insecurity in the 1970s. More recent work by Jan Selby, Omar Dahi, Christiane Fröhlich, and Mike Hulme has interrogated the climate attribution thesis of the Syrian conflict, arguing that policymakers should exercise greater caution when drawing such links. Even more recently, Myanna Lahsen and Jesse Ribot (2022) argued that ‘climate-centric disaster framing can erase from view—and, thus, from policy agendas—the very socio-economic and political factors that most centrally cause vulnerability and suffering in weather extremes and disasters.’

Such discussions are rich, but often suffer from being siloed in isolated academic subjects and institutions. This workshop aims to bring together scholars across disciplines to critically examine powerful and controversial climate-based narratives around food insecurity that have long permeated public discourse.

This is an intimate 1-day event that seeks to assemble individuals with various research backgrounds (e.g. environmental history, HSTM, social sciences, atmospheric science) in an effort to generate critical transdisciplinary engagement around the intersection between climate, food, and famine in history.


April 14, 2023, 9:00-16:00 BST

Room 2.57 Simon Building, University of Manchester, UK

Deadline for abstracts (300 words): December 15, 2022



Registration information for non-presenting participants will be circulated at a later date.

Format: 20-minute presentation followed by 10-minutes of discussion at the end of each panel. 50-minute roundtable to finish proceedings.

Please send your submissions and any queries to Robert Naylor and Eleanor Shaw (conference organisers): climate.food.famine@gmail.com

A limited number of travel bursaries are available (with priority for early career researchers). Please email the above address for details. In the first instance this is an in-person event. However, if you wish to contribute but cannot travel please email the above address.

Categories
Notes & Letters Seminar

14.7: Inquiry into Earth Atmospheres

By Emery Jenson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

We’re excited to announce the launch of “14.7: Inquiry into Earth Atmospheres,” a new Borghesi-Mellon Public Humanities Workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Our workshop provides a forum for scientists, social scientists, and humanists to develop new methods, terms, and analytical frames for inquiry into Earth’s atmosphere(s).

As a collective, we hope to deepen our investigation of Earth atmospheres to shed light on problems that no one of our disciplines can engage alone. We will investigate the practices by which corporate energy giants like Enron use climate data to commodify atmosphere and weather patterns. We will bring together insights of postcolonial and area studies with those of meteorology. We will engage meteorological research showing that basic atmospheric mechanisms like heating and cooling occur via different dynamics in the tropics and the poles. We will explore multiple intersecting planetary atmospheres that challenge what Kristen Simmons has called “settler atmospherics,” a monologic account of atmosphere manifest as monoculturalism. We hope you will join us.

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Online Seminar

Meteorology and Cultural Change in Vietnam, 1000-1850

By Dr Hieu Phung, online, 6 October 2022, 20:00 SGT (UTC+8)

ICHM Annual Seminar Series

Join us for the first of our new online seminar series on 6th October when the environmental historian Dr Hieu Phung (Rutgers University) will be speaking about her research on the history of meteorology in Vietnam.

Register to attend the online seminar here: https://bit.ly/3KCHzNU

To receive information about the rest of the 2022/23 seminar series, and the rest of ICHM’s activities, sign-up to our mailing list: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/meteohistory

Abstract

Between 1000 and the 1850s, meteorological knowledge and practices of the Vietnamese were strongly associated with wet rice cultivation. The authorities maintained official agencies to produce yearly calendars that traced proper timing for rice crops, while the populace accumulated experience-based knowledge about seasonal rainfall. But weather extremes and other natural anomalies were not merely natural processes. They were also “Heaven-sent” warnings of cosmological disasters that demanded for moral and political change. While crossing dendrochronological reconstruction with historical records have recently generated new understandings of the past climate patterns, a deeper level of contextualization is a must to unfold the cultural script embedded in the climate-related information from historical sources.

Biography

A photograph of the seminar speaker Dr Hieu Phung.

Dr Hieu Phung is an environmental historian who investigates the impacts of local culture and statecraft on the preindustrial environment, especially on water and climate. She has recently joined Rutgers University Department of Asian Languages and Cultures as an Assistant Professor of Global Studies-Asia. Her research focuses on the history of Vietnam and Southeast Asia during the transition from the Medieval Climate Anomaly (c. 800/950–1250/1300) to the Little Ice Age (c. 1300–1850). In pursuing environmental history, she engages with the study of space, maps, and texts that reveal the construction of premodern geographic knowledge. She is working on a book project entitled “Heavenly Drought: Natural Anomalies and State-Building in Fifteenth-Century Vietnam.” Her recent publications include “Naming the Red River – Becoming a Vietnamese River” and “Meteorology in Vietnam, Pre-1850.”

Categories
Notes & Letters

The 5th Meteorological Science & Technology History Conference in China

By Zhenghong Chen, ICHM Vice-President and China Regional Representative

From December 7 to 8, 2021, the China Meteorological Administration Training Centre held the 5th National Conference on the History of Meteorological Science and Technology, by onsite and online methods in Beijing. Dr. Alexander Hall, President of ICHM in 2021, wrote to the China Representative to support the conference and extend his best wishes.

Categories
Notes & Letters

The weather enterprise – a concept in need of historical analysis

By Robert Naylor, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester

In the summer of 2019, when the idea of doing a PhD during a global pandemic was furthest from my mind, I had the pleasure of attending the Meteorological Technology World Expo in Geneva, Switzerland. It was a dynamic, somewhat chaotic event that reflected a rapidly growing market for weather products. There were companies that manufactured weather balloons, rain gauges, anemometers, aluminium masts, instrument shelters, radars, lidars, and all other kinds of gadgets. Other companies sold services, offering solutions in, for example, instrument installation, environmental measuring, data management, and calibration. Some simply sold information, often drawing from their existing monitoring networks; ‘only well-informed decision makers can face these challenges [climate change, environmental protection, conscious management of natural resources] and form adequate strategies to overcome them’ claimed one advertisement.[i] With around 150 companies attending in its eighth year, the expo was a showcase of a relatively young industry that was on the up.

Categories
Notes & Letters

Introducing ‘Notes & Letters’

One of the first things Fiona and I wanted do as new Co-Presidents was to develop a channel of communication between members that was less fleeting than an email announcement, but not as formal as a journal article.

Through conversations with past Presidents we learned that when History of Meteorology was first launched, there was an intention that it would carry not just fully-fledged research articles, but also shorter pieces from members documenting things like new archival finds, conference reports, and short responses to recently published articles.

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Conference Online Opportunities

Past, Present and Future of the History of Meteorology

Online Conference, September 15, 2021, 8:50-16:30 UTC

As part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the International Commission for the History of Meteorology we hosted an online conference over two separate time zone sessions on Wednesday 15 September 2021.

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Conference Opportunities

Launching the Atmospheric Humanities

Online Conference, 3-5 August 2021

The Launching the Atmospheric Humanities conference, originally scheduled to take place in July 2020 in Hermoupolis, Greece took place online from 3-5 August 2021.

Categories
Conference General Resources

ICHM turns 20!

The International Commission for the History of Meteorology was founded in 2001 at the 21st International Congress of History of Science in Mexico City. Since then, we have supported numerous workshops and events, and sponsored major meetings in Polling, Germany in 2004; Beijing, China in 2005; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2008 and 2017; Waterville, Maine, USA and Budapest, Hungary in 2009; Manchester, England in 2013; and Prague, Czech Republic (Online) in July 2021.

To commemorate our 20th anniversary, member Robert Naylor has been recording interviews with those involved in various roles with ICHM over the last two decades. Please click below to watch the wonderful video he has created to commemorate our anniversary!

Please do share the video with any friends, colleagues or other networks who may be interested in learning more about the work of ICHM. If you’re sharing on social media, you may prefer to use this shorter version.

You can find out more information about the commemorative online conference on the “Past, Present, and Future of the History of Meteorology” that we’re hosting on 15 Sept 2021, here. The call for papers closes on July 15, 2021.

As this is my final year as President of ICHM, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support over the last 4 years. We’ll be announcing all of the new Officers soon, so keep any eye on your inboxes.

Here’s to another 20 years of ICHM!

Alexander Hall, June 2021

Categories
Conference Opportunities

Call for Papers: Past, Present, and Future of the History of Meteorology

September 15, 2021, 13:00-16:00 UTC Online (Zoom)

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the International Commission for the History of Meteorology (ICHM) within the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. In celebration, ICHM will be holding an online conference reflecting on our discipline as a whole.

The ICHM was founded in 2001 at the 21st International Congress of History of Science in Mexico City. Since then, it has sponsored large specialty meetings in Polling, Germany in 2004; Beijing, China in 2005; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2008 and 2017; Waterville, Maine, USA and Budapest, Hungary in 2009; Manchester, England in 2013; and Prague, Czech Republic, scheduled for 2021.

In part thanks to the commission, the history of meteorology has expanded its remit considerably, incorporating the work of academics from a wide range of institutional and disciplinary backgrounds. Echoing this development, and as reflected in the pages of ICHM’s journal History of Meteorology, the topics of the history of meteorology have become ever more diverse, including new turns towards colonial and applied meteorology. This anniversary conference provides an occasion to take stock and turn our gaze inward.

We welcome papers exploring past and current trajectories of the history of meteorology, with an emphasis on how our discipline can develop in the future. These could include reflections on our institutional shaping, pedagogical development, research turns, new initiatives, and interactions with the history of science, technology, and medicine as a whole and with the atmospheric humanities, broadly defined. As well as being a critical academic conference, this event will also be a celebration of ICHM. It will bring our community together, in scholarship and friendship, at a time when a physical meeting is difficult, connecting early career scholars with more established researchers in the field and ensuring the history of meteorology’s bright future.


Deadline for abstracts (250 words): July 15, 2021

Format: 15-minute presentation followed by 15-minutes of discussion.

Registration information for non-presenting participants will be circulated at a later date.

We welcome pre-recorded contributions if you are unable to attend live due to different time zones, and we are also willing to work with you to accommodate for your sleep schedule (e.g. putting your paper towards the end of the conference if you are on the US west coast).

Please send your submissions and any queries to Robert Naylor (conference organiser): ICHM.Conference.2021@gmail.com

Separate to the conference, we are also interested in compiling and perhaps circulating personal stories from ICHM’s history, whether it involved beer gardens in Polling, samba dancing in Rio, or lobster in Maine.


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