Call for Papers: „The Voice of Nature“

RHN 38/2014 | Call

Convenors: Liesbeth van de Grift, Wim van Meurs (Radboud University Nijmegen, History Dept.)

23-24 April 2014, Soeterbeeck (near Nijmegen), The Netherlands

Deadline: 4 April 2014

International multidisciplinary workshop
„The Voice of Nature“

Whether it is the earthquakes in the northeast of the Netherlands caused by natural gas extraction, the long-term consequences of Chernobyl or Fukushima or deforestation – the politics of environmentalism is a hot topic, both in the public debate and in academia. This, however, is nothing new, as is testified by the rise of environmental movements in the 1970s. But even before that, “nature” was a topic of heated political debate and strife. Ever since the modern state increasingly intervened in nature, the effects of industrialisation and economic modernisation on nature became undeniable and an increasing number of citizens demanded voice in the 19th century, nature has been at the heart of modern politics.

Strikingly, even though the political nature of “nature” can hardly be denied, political historians have left its study largely to colleagues from the other (sub) disciplines. In studying this topic, political scientists meet cultural historians, ecologists meet legal experts, and public administration experts share their research object with biologists.

We argue that it is imperative for historians of modern-day politics to join in and catch up. For that reason, we have crafted the research programme “The Voice of Nature”, in which we aim to chart “the politics of nature” in the 19th and 20th centuries and analyse it as one of claim-making and contention in the name of a variety of interests: economic modernisation and profitability, scientific expertise and progress, the liveability of citizens or future generations, or the sanctity of nature as such. We aim to explain why some claims were rejected, while others were accepted and enforced, and show how the contention over “nature” led to new institutional arrangements and a redefinition of representative democracy as such.

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together scholars operating at the cross-section of several research interests: nature protection and management, expert cultures, and environmental movements. Despite this overlap, in day-to-day academic life these various communities of scholars rarely meet and discuss the issue of environmentalism and the politics of nature as a result of academic compartmentalisation. This workshop provides a platform to discuss and confront each other’s approaches and research questions and explore possible common ground.

The present workshop is the second meeting and the first international meeting in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Part of the agenda is to reflect on research questions and assumptions of the various disciplines in an informal setting, another part will be devoted to the discussion and assessment of the comparative research proposal  “The Voice of Nature” on the politics of nature in, initially, a handful of Northwest-European polities .

Call for Papers

As the set-up of the workshop is an informal multidisciplinary meeting of experts interested in exploring new research synergies, participation is mainly by invitation. Some of the seats, however, have been reserved for an open call for papers. If you are interested, please send the convenors a 200 words outline of your research in one of the relevant fields including your paper proposal and a short CV no later than 4 April, 2014 to Liesbeth van de Grift, e-mail: Radboud University covers travel costs and accommodation at the Soeterbeeck venue for all participants.

Workshop Programme

Wednesday, 23 April

  • 10:30 Arrival
  • 10:30-11:30 Keynote: Environmental History – State of the Art
  • 11:30-13:00 Panel I: Managing Nature
  • 13:00-14:00 Lunch
  • 14:00-15:30 Panel II: Protecting Nature
  • 15:30-17:00 Panel III: Nature’s Experts

Thursday, 24 April

  • 9:00-10:30 Discussion: Research programme „The Voice of Nature“
  • 10:30-11:30 Keynote: New Approaches to the Study of Political Representation
  • 11:30-13:00 Panel IV: Nature’s Advocates
  • 13:00 Lunch and departure