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The ethnography of an ethnographer: Dmitry Arzyutov on the life of Andrej Danilin (1896-1942)

Our division has a very international setup, which is also reflected in the diversity of languages we publish in. Our colleague Dmitry Arzyutov (Candidate of Sciences in the field of anthropology, Kunstkamera St. Petersburg, and PhD-student at KTH in History of Science/ Environmental History) has just now published an article in the Russian journal “Siberian Historical Investigations” (Sibirskie istoricheskie issledovaniya). In this article Arzyutov uncovers the difficult archival situation one encounters while doing research on the life of one of the most prominent Soviet ethnographers of the inter-war period.

Andrej Grigor’evich Danilin (1896-1942) was a leading Russian scholar conducting ethnographic research on the people living in the Altaj region. In their article, Arzyutov reconstructs the archival situation concerning Danilin’s life and creates a map, of how Danilin archived his documents in his personal archive. The co-author of this article is Lidiya Danilina, the daughter of ethnographer Andrej Danilin. Together, they propose what they call an “ethnography of the ethnographer”, which turns the investigator-investigated matrix of earlier times upside down.

How did Danilin correspond with different people? How were bureaucratic situations dealt with? How can one find Danilin’s personal voice in his papers? If you want to find out more, check out the publications entry in DiVA.

Research is also done by students: New Master Thesis Investigates Politics of Climate Change Adaptation in Pakistan

Anusha Batool Sherazi has finished a master thesis with a pressing topic this fall. Under the supervision of Ethemcan Turhan, researcher of our division and new Assistant Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of Groningen, our master student has produced a valuable contribution for the study of climate change, under the challenging conditions of the global pandemic.

While the effects of the current climate crisis are being felt everywhere, the global south has to mitigate its consequences under austere conditions. Sherazi investigates in this study the political dimensions of the pressing need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate in Pakistan. Struck by several severe disasters, this country deserves special attention to learn how adaptations can be framed, financed and realised to the benefit of people affected in a southern Asian context.

Key words: climate change adaptation, adaptation funding, climate change policy, corrective justice, differential responsibility, maladaptation, political ecology.

You can download this piece here.

Merry Christmas and joyful holidays!

Adam Wickberg and Johan Gärdebo introducing the concept of “Environing Media”

How has the relation between humans and Earth developed over the centuries? How have colonial and capitalist agendas operated globally, while the view of the planetary environment was shaped by the media?

Wickberg and Gärdebo see this relation as a “profound renegotiation” which continuously is reshaped, but which definitely encountered a “fundamental shift” after 1500 with the acceleration of human globalisation. The concept of environing media shall contribute to the scientific understanding of the role of media as a mediator to how the world is being seen on the basis of an ever-increasing collection of data in an age of digitisation. This can be used to understand the internal and ideological mechanics of colonial empires in a historical perspective. It also allows to understand today’s discourses on international flow of commodities and the movements of people on the background of the influence of modern mass media.

Check out this innovative approach in the journal Humanities!

A Water Conference in spite of Corona – WaterBlog@KTH: Reflect, Rethink, Refill

“Water is everywhere in our economy, in nature and culture. Billions of years ago our planet had cooled down enough for the surrounding gas clouds to condense, fall down to Earth’s surface, and form the oceans. Everything started with water and water is still a precondition to all life. No wonder that World Economic Forum in 2016 listed water as the largest risk factor for sustained well-being on the planet.”

With the focus on water, one thing led to another a few years ago and in 2017 the WaterCentre was initiated at KTH Royal Institute of Technology – linked to our Division through center director David Nilsson, and research coordinator, Timos Karpouzoglou, both researchers with us. The Centre is a collaboration with a “mission to bring about water innovations for a sustainable future of the Earth”.

In line with their own motto “expect the unexpected”, the WaterCentre managed to sum up their four first year in a covid-19 safe conference last week. Read all about it in their blog, and visit their homepage for more news, research and other interesting pieces:

WaterBlog@KTH: Reflect, Rethink, Refill

The Water Centre Report 2017-2020

The WaterCentre@KTH has already existed for four years. Wow, time flies! To mark the ending of our first mandate period, we had decided to organise a water conference showcasing research, water inn…

Source: A Water Conference in spite of Corona – WaterBlog@KTH: Reflect, Rethink, Refill

Our New Post-Doc in Energy History: Marta Musso Investigating Resource Exploitation and Possibilities for Digital Archives

Covid-19 profoundly changes the way we work. What luckily has not changed, is that new people join us at the division. Marta has recently taken up the position of a post-doc, while we are mostly working from home. Thus we asked her the following questions to introduce Marta’s work, show potential for collaboration and to get to know her a little bit better.

A picture of Marta Musso, smiling warmly and friendly, open curly brown hair, glasses

Could you please tell us about yourself and the fields you are working on?

My name is Marta Musso and I am the new post-doc in energy history at the department, working together with Per Högselius. My research follows two main strands: the first one is linked to energy policy history, and it focusses on the international economic policy of resource exploitation, and the relations between state and enterprises in negotiations for resource exploitation in the post-colonial years. The second strand of research refers to the development of digital archives, and the usage of digital-born documents on behalf of historians. I am involved in preservation projects to allow historians to make the best out of digitisation and digital technologies, such as Archives Portal Europe ( At the same time, I am an advocate of digital preservation, particularly for what concerns energy archives. Currently I am the president of Eogan, the network of energy archives.

What do you work on right now? Do you feel an impact by the current pandemic on your work?

My current research project at KTH is an extension of my PhD, which focussed on the development of the Algerian oil industry and on the nationalisation of oil resources in the post-colonial years. I am now looking at the claims of the G-77 and OPEC countries in particular with regards to the international commodity market in the years leading to and following the 1973 oil crisis. Luckily so far I have found a lot of material online (thumbs up to the UN archives which have a very good digitisation strategy!), and I have much material from my PhD years that I did not get to properly study (particular from the OPEC archives). However, I would like to also visit the OECD archives in Paris and not only are they closed, but on their website they state clearly that they do not do digitisation on demand. Hopefully the situation will change between now and Autumn 2021. Other than that, it is bad that I cannot get to meet my new colleagues and get a better feeling of the spirit of the department; on the other hand, there are a lot of interesting things happening online and I don’t feel like I am missing out. As a matter of fact, having a toddler in the house, some things are easier to do online than in person, so I also appreciate the good side of this difficult situation.

What do you aim for in the near future in terms of research, projects, or public outreach?

I hope to have a book manuscript by end of 2021, and 2/3 papers out in the meantime. I also really like to engage in public history projects, and I would like to be more involved in making documentaries or to communicate my research in other ways than academic papers – but it is difficult to find the time and the opportunities! I also hope that my research could be of interest to current energy policies, particularly with regards to international coordination in the fight against climate change. One of the aims of my current research is to show how many lost opportunities there were in the 1970s to develop a more balance global economy

In the very near future, I am presenting a volume I have recently co-edited, which is being published by the Journal of Energy History as open access, on the 11th December, at 2pm. (Registration here)

Video presentation of Marta’s project

Thank you Marta. It is great to have you and your expertise with us!

Marco Armiero and Cecilia Åsberg Respond to the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity

Both EHL director Marco Armiero and Division guest professor Cecilia Åsberg was published in the 2020 summer issue of Ecocene: Cappadocia Journal of Environmental Humanities. Ecocene is a digital, open-access, peer-reviewed, international, and transdisciplinary journal of the Environmental Humanities.The June issue of the journal wrapped sixteen articles from different authors under the title Environmental Humanists Respond to the World. Read the abstracts and find links to the open access articles below.


Beyond Nonpartisan Discourses: Radical Knowledge for Extreme Times
by Marco Armiero

The majority of scientists agree on climate change and on the most daunting environmental problems humans are facing today. Moved by a commendable desire to contribute to the solution of these problems, several scientists have decided to speak up, telling the scientific truth about climate change to decision-makers and the public. Although appreciating the commitment to intervene in the public arena, I discuss some limits of these interventions. I argue that stating the reality of climate change does not prescribe any specific solution and sometimes it seems faint in distributing responsibilities. I ask whether unveiling/knowing the truth can be enough to foster radical transformations. Can knowledge move people towards transformative actions if power relationships do not change?Various environmental justice controversies prove that even when science is certain—and this is rarely the case in that kind of controversies—knowing might be not enough in the face of power structures preventing free choices and radical changes. In the end of my article, I state that it is fair to recognize that scientists have done their parts, and it is now up to social movements to foster the radical changes in power relationships that are needed for transforming societies.

Keywords: Politicization, scientific consensus, radical transformations, truth, environmental justice

Visit the Environment & Society Portal to download and read to full article: Beyond Nonpartisan Discourses: Radical Knowledge for Extreme Times” | Environment & Society Portal

A Sea Change in the Environmental Humanities
by Cecilia Åsberg

As we are living through a transformative response to a viral pandemic, this think piece suggests a reimagining of the environmental humanities in the open-ended inventories of feminist posthumanities and the low trophic registers of the oceanic. Sea farming of low trophic species such as seaweeds and bivalves is still underexplored option for the mitigation of climate change and diminishing species diversity in the warming oceans of the world. The affordances of low trophic mariculture for coastal life and for contributing to society’s transition into climate aware practices of eating, socializing and thinking is here considered, and showcased as an example of the practical uses of feminist environmental posthumanities.

Keywords: feminist environmental humanities, feminist posthumanities, oceanic studies, low trophic theory

Visit the Environment & Society Portal to download and read to full article: “A Sea Change in the Environmental Humanities” | Environment & Society Portal

Full list to the open access articles in the Ecocene June issue
Ecocene Volume 1/ Issue 1/June 2020 


Fossil Capital: the Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming

Under the theme of remembering the text (being a division of history after all) we will start a series of re-published texts from the enormous archive of different publications at the Divison. First out is Irma Allen’s review on Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming’ by Andreas Malm (Verso Books). This was originally published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, and then later in the Ecologist.

Irma is a doctoral student within the EHL at the Division. Her research focuses on how coal, as a substance and a material of labour, has shaped ideas of the Polish nation. She will defend during 2021.

From front cover of ‘Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming’ by Andreas Malm (Verso Books).

We all know that coal and steam vanquished over water power in Britain’s – and the world’s – industrial revolution, writes Irma Allen. But as Andreas Malm sets out in his fascinating new book, the deciding factors in that victory were the unconstrained mastery over people and nature that coal provided mill owners. And so the model was set for the fossil age that may only now be coming to an end.

Read the full review: Fossil Capital: the rise of steam power and the roots of global warming

New Article: Claiming Value in a Heterogeneous Solid Waste Configuration in Kampala

Division and EHL researcher Henrik Ernstson, together with Mary Lawhon, University of Edinburgh and Hakimu Sseviiri, Shuaib Lwasa and Revocatus Twinomuhangib from Makerere University (Urban Action Lab) are published in a forthcoming issue of the scientific journal Urban Geography. In the peer review article “Claiming value in a heterogeneous solid waste configuration in Kampala” they examine recycling in Kampala, the city’s complex waste systems and why little waste moves through it.

Photo: Henrik Ernstson


Kampala has a complex set of regulations describing actors, rules and procedures for collection and transportation of waste, and requires waste to be disposed of at the landfill. Yet little of the city’s waste moves through this “formal system”. Building on wider scholarship on urban infrastructure and calls to theorize from southern cities, we examine recycling in Kampala as a heterogeneous infrastructure configuration. Kampala’s lively recycling sector is socially and materially diverse: it is comprised of entrepreneurs, publicprivate partnerships and non-governmental organizations, as well as a range of materials with different properties and value. We articulate how actors assert claims, obtain permissions, build and maintain relationships as they rework flows away from the landfill. We argue that recognizing sociomaterial heterogeneity throughout the waste configuration enables a clearer analysis of contested processes of claiming value from waste. We also demonstrate how these efforts have pressured the state to reconsider the merits of the modern infrastructure ideal as a model for what (good) infrastructure is and ought to be. Various actors assert more heterogeneous alternatives, raising the possibility of alternative modes of infrastructure which might generate better incomes and improve service provision.

This article is a part of the Heterogenous Infrastructure Configurations in Uganda (HICCUP) project, funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Henrik is a long time research fellow of the Environmental Humanities Laboratory and the Division. He is a political ecologist, lecturer at the University of Manchester, world wide resident, honorary associate professor of the University of Cape Town, a postcolonial urbanist and a filmmaker to mention only a few things on a long list of engagements. Keep up with Henrik on Twitter:


Claiming value in a heterogeneous solid waste configuration in Kampala (open access)

HICCUP project page

Urban Geography

SPHERE – a Podcast on the Evolution of Global Environmental Governance

It is a new week at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment and this one begins with the official launch of the SPHERE podcast – produced by our very own Eric Paglia.

About the Podcast:

SPHERE is a podcast that investigates the historical evolution of global environmental governance through in-depth discussions with a wide array of scholars, scientists, and practitioners—including politicians, diplomats and other government officials—who have played decisive roles in shaping the course of environmental politics, science and activism over the past half century or more.

In the first episode, with 1948 as a starting point, Eric talks to prof. Sverker Sörlin on “the idea of “the environment” emerged at the outset of a radical reconfiguration of the human-environment relationship precipitated by an unprecedented post-war economic expansion that put enormous pressure on ecosystems and the Earth.”

Tune in here: or simply listen below

Eric is a researcher at the Divison, he successfully defended his thesis “The Northward Course of the Anthropocene: Transformation, Temporality and Telecoupling in a Time of Environmental Crisis” with us in 2016 and since then holds a PhD in History of Science, Technology and Environment. On top of this, he is a radio host, and a rock n roll music lover.

Sverker is a professor of Environmental History at the Division, an author, writer, frequent debater and outdoor sports entusiast with an inexhaustible source of energy.

The SPHERE project is a historical study of humanity’s relation to planetary conditions and constraints and how it has become understood as a governance issue.

Visit the project page on

Tell the Story. Trauma as an Environmental Issue. Or, The Personal Is Ecopolitical – YouTube

Enjoy a virtual talk between Marco Armiero and Serenella Iovino from October 2020. This webinar was a part of Serenella’s course: Entangled Emergencies. Theories (and Stories) to Think with the Virus. An Environmental Humanities Approach at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Serenella is a Professor of Italian Studies and Environmental Humanities, a literary theorist, an ecocritic and a friend of the Division and the EHL, and she has been engaged in several events and projects with us over the years.

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