Last week’s class on the non-human was extremely interesting. For me, it helped clear up some ideas I have for my long essay, and allowed me to adapt what I was saying in my short essay. It showed me that I was viewing the human and the environment as separate “beings” or “objects” in some sort of dichotomy, and that this view was problematic. Humans are part of the environment, they impact the environment, they are catalysts for change and react to that change. Humans cannot exist without the environment, so why do we view them almost in opposition to them both in life and history?

This is why, in my long essay, although my focus is on social movements in the twentieth century, I am not going to consider these social people as separate from the environment, but rather as campaigning for something they are a part of. This can help me better understand why collective opinions formed, as I will remember that these same humans are part of the same environment. 

Furthermore, after doing research for my short essay, I have decided that I will place more focus on micro historical and anthropological methods than historical environmental. The short essay was a useful exercise because it allowed me to study different approaches to environmental history, and I can apply the concepts I have learned to my long essay, but I am not sure everything was completely relevant to my question. Of course, that is the beauty of the preliminary essay, because if I dived into the long essay first thinking I was going to use environmental historical methods I would have hit a roadblock which is not fun!

My plans at the moment and for the future are to continue reading primary and secondary sources for my essay and map what I find onto a timeline and a map of Europe, to understand the socio-political context a bit better to answer the question Why did environmental social movements develop similarly in Eastern and Western Europe?

Using the non-human

One thought on “Using the non-human

  • April 12, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    Hi! I just watched your conference presentation and I am glad to see I am not the only one who decided to shift their leading question for the long essay. I particularly liked how you went over how you responded and adapted to your initial project proposal feedback – it’s quite helpful to substantively see how your project has evolved not only thematically but also methodologically.

    I’m glad you’re engaging with this subject as it is a newer field of history and its research utilizes methods across disciplines. I thoroughly enjoyed watching your conference presentation as I have a little bit of background environmental history and historiography (and I am a big fan of David Attenborough). I wrote a historiographical essay in HI2001 on William Beinart and Peter Coates’s Environment and History: The taming of nature in the USA and South Africa (1995) – while it has been a minute since I last picked it up I remember them discuss at length the role media and news played in disseminating environmental movements. They also do a good job of incorporating anthropological sources and first hand accounts into their cross-analysis. I’m not sure how much this will pertain to your research but if you find yourself stumped methodologically at any point, I think this book might be useful to draw inspiration from as they engage with similar methods you mention.

    I have encountered similar issues with a focus on the post-Soviet space as most anything deemed as progressive literature within this region is difficult to unearth. I have noticed the USSR had a tendency to destroy/conceal historical evidence and accounts that did not align with their views or political agenda… I wish I could say differently for the current Russian state but I have still found this to be an issue in interacting with modern Russian sources. I also think a non-human actor as your subject is a very interesting and refreshing way to go about this topic. Best of luck as you continue your research!

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