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Robert Gioielli

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About me

I am an urban and environmental historian, with particular interest in environmental justice, social equity and sustainability, as well as environmental politics and activism. I spent most of my career in the United States, primarily at the University of Cincinnati, but came to KTH in 2024 as an Associate Professor of Environmental History and Director of the Environmental Humanities Laboratory.

My early work focused on the history of grassroots urban environmental activism in the twentieth century United States. This work culminated in Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago. The book used case studies of grassroots activism in three American cities in the 1960s and 1970s to show the experience of urban disinvestment and destruction led to the development of a broader, more justice and equity focused form of environmentalism. My research on the history environmental activism continued with a project on international wildlife conservation and environmental philanthropy that explored the role of fundraising and finance in the creation of civil society organizations and forms of environmental politics.

My current primary research is on the role that race, and efforts to maintain racial hierarchies and privilege, has in making cities more or less sustainable, with a focus on the development of American suburbia after the 1960s. Tentatively titledAn Environmental History of White Flight, this project examines how whites attempted to use urban development restrictions to build and maintain racially exclusive communities, and more broadly, metropolitan power. These efforts had a host of consequences, including making American cities tremendously energy intensive and fossil fuel dependent, as well as creating new and exacerbating older forms of environmental inequality. The manuscript is currently under contract with the University of Washington Press.

Other current interests include the development and structure of interdisciplinary projects, and the use of data in analyzing and visualizing urban social and environmental issues. Through the University of Cincinnati’s Transdisciplinary Research Leadership Development Program I worked with a team to develop the “The Sound of Industry,” which looks to understand how the sound environments of workplaces have been conceived, controlled and managed by managers, regulators and workers. Another project “Climate/Race Maps” explores the relationship between household carbon consumption and social factors, particularly race, in American cities over the past forty years.

I am also particularly interested in public engagement and the humanities, and the third mission applications of environmental history and the environmental humanities. In 2015 I was the director and chief historian for the exhibitionRethinking Porkopolis: Cincinnati and the Ecology of Slavery which used the city’s history of meatpacking to show the region’s connections to slavery and the cotton economy and the development of racial hierarchies in nineteenth century America. From 2015 to 2023 I was a member of the board of directors (and chair for four years) of the Over-the-Rhine Museum. This is a community effort to create a museum to tell the complex stories of the residents of a historic but rapidly gentrifying community in Cincinnati.

My research, publications and projects have been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, Ohio Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I was twice a fellow of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and am currently the vice president of the center’s Society of Fellows. I am also currently chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Committee of the American Society for Environmental History, and am a member of the editorial board ofEnvironmental History.


Environmental History (AK1204), course responsible, teacher | Course web

Gender and Technology (AK2202), teacher | Course web

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