Call for Papers, Atmospheric Humanities Conference II
1-3 November 2024
Historical and Popular Art Museum of Aegina, Greece
Small island countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific and Indian Ocean have always been exposed to extreme weather, but the last decades have made it clear that they are also the biggest future victims of climate change. However, islands are also key sites in the history of science. Much weather and climate knowledge derives from island sites. When European and North American countries started launching weather balloons around 1900 to measure the upper atmosphere, next to ships, islands formed key launching sites. Islands were ideal places to measure the interaction of the global atmosphere, the land and the ocean. The Keeling curve was the result of decades of accurate and continuous measurements at Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii. Moreover, islands have also became important meteorological metaphors: think about ‘heat islands’ in urban cities, where microclimates create islands where before there were none.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Report written by Zhenghong Chen, China Representative for ICHM
The Fourth National Conference on the History of Meteorological Science and Technology was held in Beijing on 8-9 November 2019. The event was hosted by the Committee on the History of Meteorological Science and Technology of the Chinese Society for the History of Science and Technology and Department of Science and Technology, and by the Climate Change Section of China Meteorological Administration. The conference was organized by the China Meteorological Administration Training Center (CMATC), and co-hosted by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences at Nanjing University, by the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences of Peking University, and by the Institute of Science and Technology History of Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology. The main theme of the conference was “the enlightenment and history of meteorological developments for the 70th anniversary of the people’s Republic of China”.
The Fifth International Workshop on Science, Philosophy and Literature
Hermoupolis, Syros Island, Greece 14-16 July 2020
THIS WORKSHOP HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
The Atmospheric Humanities is a fast-emerging field of scholarship seeking to understand socio-cultural dimensions of atmospheric experience, knowledge and practice. Examining atmospheric agency in its historical and contemporary manifestations, atmospheric humanities explore the atmosphere as a site of diverse cultural appropriations of air’s modalities and their reproduction in practices of aerial and climatological citizenship. This foundational workshop aims to initiate and foster discussions on how atmospheric themes, memes, and objects emerge, spread and travel across artistic and academic communities. We especially welcome contributions from scholars whose work spans disciplines, including, but not limited to, literary and media studies, history of science, environmental history, aesthetics, visual arts, architecture, phenomenology, and social sciences.
The changing representation(s) of the atmosphere in art and popular media, both contemporary and historical.
Interfaces and interactions between scientific understanding(s) of the atmosphere and other ways of knowing or experiencing the atmosphere (e.g. political, indigenous, religious, philosophical, aesthetic).
Explorations of space and scale in relation to human understanding of the atmosphere and related concepts such as weather and climate.
The material culture of the atmosphere, including technologies used to measure, assess, represent and manipulate the atmosphere.
The workshop is organized by the International Commission of Science and Literature and the International Commission on History of Meteorology. The Commissions will provide a limited travel support to early career scholars, who should send their application letter, presentation abstract and CV to Dr Alexander Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org and George N. Vlahakis at email@example.com
Organizing committee: Vladimir Jankovic (University of Manchester), George N. Vlahakis (Hellenic Open University), Madalina Diaconu (University of Vienna), Alexander Hall (University of Birmingham), James R. Fleming (Colby College), John Holmes (University of Birmingham), and Kostas Tampakis (National Hellenic Research Foundation).
European Society for the History of Science Conference, London September 2018
Conference report by Giuditta Parolini
Two linked symposia on “(Dis)Continuity Between the East and the West: The History of Meteorological Knowledge Transfer in Colonial Contexts”, sponsored by the International Commission for the History of Meteorology, took place in London this month during the conference of the European Society for the History of Science (14-17 September 2018).
The symposia, convened by Fiona Williamson, Vladimir Jankovic and Alexander Hall, featured six talks on meteorological history across time and space. The talks investigated colonial contexts in a time frame that ranged from the early modern age to the twentieth century. The symposia engaged with the overarching theme of the conference – unity and disunity – by addressing continuities and discontinuities in Western and Eastern approaches to meteorology. ‘How did Western meteorological knowledge travel to the East?’, ‘What were the people and institutions that promoted its dissemination?’, ‘How was it received?’, ‘What kind of transformations and adaptations took place in the East?’ were questions common to all the talks presented at the conference.
The first symposium featured contributions from Zhenghong Chen (China Meteorological Administration Training Centre) on Chinese meteorology in the colonial era, Huib Zuidervaart (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands) and Stefan Grab (University of Witswatersrand) on meteorological observations in the Dutch colonies during the early modern period, and Martin Mahony (University of East Anglia) on meteorological knowledge production in colonial Mauritius. During the second symposium George Adamson (King’s College London) discussed Gilbert Walker’s work on Indian climate and the Southern Oscillation, Joan Kenworthy (Independent scholar) considered how local meteorological knowledge influenced the understanding of climate in the Kenyan highlands, and Giuditta Parolini (TU Berlin) addressed the case of agricultural meteorology in French Indochina during the early twentieth century.
The symposia were conceived as an opportunity to investigate the networks of meteorological knowledge exchange between East and West, so far understudied, and to examine how this knowledge exchange affected the material culture and intellectual terrain of the atmospheric sciences both in the colonies and in the West. As argued by Zuidervaart and Grab, the creation of meteorological knowledge in colonial contexts has a long history indeed. Meteorological observations were already common in Dutch colonial settlements in the early modern age and the records of these meteorological observations found their way back to the homeland, where they were discussed within scientific societies.
During the colonial age, Western meteorological science often contributed to the growth of local knowledge in the atmospheric sciences. As discussed by Chen, China offers a clear example of this, because the work done by missionaries and the observatories built by Western nations promoted the development of a local tradition in meteorology. Yet, it would be mistaken to assume that local meteorological knowledge did not exist in the colonies. In the case of East Africa discussed by Kenworthy, colonial and local meteorological knowledge both existed, but issues arose in the attempt to merge the two discourses.
Starting from the nineteenth century, meteorological knowledge became a key asset in the colonies due to the value of meteorological data in many human enterprises, ranging from agriculture to navigation. The meteorological observatory in Port Louis, Mauritius, discussed by Mahoney, and the agrometeorological service in French Indochina, discussed by Parolini, are just two examples of the economic value that meteorological knowledge increasingly acquired, and how colonial authorities sought to generate and exploit such knowledge. Adamson’s talk on the Southern Oscillation added an additional perspective. If Gilbert’s research was prompted by the economic issues posed by the variability of the monsoon in India, understanding his theory of the Southern Oscillation requires shifting the vision from a place-specific case study to the spatially connected world of climate oscillations.
The stimulating questions and engaging discussions that took place during the Q&A contributed further to enlarge the panorama of meteorological knowledge in the colonies by establishing comparisons with case studies of colonial meteorology not discussed during the panel, and by drawing connections between historical, geographical and cultural studies of weather and climate.