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From one workshop to three special issues

December 1, 2020

I have written earlier on this site about a Tensions of Europe (ToE) workshop that I organized in Stockholm back in June 2018 under the heading “Challenging Europe: Technology, Environment and the Quest for Resource Security” (see this blogpost). The event was part of one of the theme groups that we have set up under the ToE network umbrella, targeting the history of natural resources in Europe and beyond. At the Stockholm workshop, for which we were lucky to receive generous funding from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, we discussed 15 draft papers and eventually came up with an ambitious plan for publishing the papers jointly in the form of three special issues, for three different journals.

Two years later, I am now amazed to see how well the plan worked out in the end: all workshop participants, who are at home in 8 different countries, did manage to finalize their articles, and all the three special issue proposals actually materialized. This is simply fantastic! The experience testifies, in a most powerful way, to the great intellectual value of the “writing workshop” format that we tried out: there were no paper presentations, but the entire workshop was geared towards reading, commenting, discussing, and rewriting of draft papers – partly in smaller groups, partly in plenary sessions.

Christian Kehrt and John Martin took the initiative of organizing one of the special issues, which in the end was entitled “Reconfiguring Nature: Resource Security and the Limits of Expert Knowledge” and was published in Global Environment. The special issue includes an introductory piece and five in-depth articles authored by Anastasia Fedotova, Elena Korchmina, Nkemjika Chimee, Jiří Janáč, John Martin, and Christian Kehrt. The objects of study range from forests and rivers in Central and Eastern Europe to extractive infrastructures in colonial Nigeria and the quest for Antarctic krill. A must-read collection!

Meanwhile Anna Åberg and Frank Veraart organized a second special issue, which in this case was published in The Extractive Industries and Society. It had the title “Creating, Capturing and Circulating Commodities: The Technology and Politics of Material Resource Flows, from the 19th Century to the Present.” Again, the introductory piece is here followed by five in-depth studies, conducted by Alexandra Bekasova, Hanna Vikström, Anna Åberg, Maja Fjaestad, Karl Bruno, Frank Veraart, Jan-Pieter Smits, and Erik van der Vleuten. Here we may read about limestone extraction in Imperial Russia, critical metals in renewable energy technologies, transnational flows of uranium, iron-ore mining in Cold War Liberia, and the connected sustainability histories of the Rhine and the Niger deltas – all of it greatly fascinating.

Last but not least, Ole Sparenberg and Matthias Heymann championed a third special issue, entitled “Resource Challenges and Constructions of Scarcity in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” It was published in the European Review of History/Revue européenne d’histoire and, just like the other two special issues, it included an introductory article and five in-depth pieces, written by Marina Loskutova, Sebastian Haumann, Matthias Heymann, Julia Lajus, and Ole Sparenberg. Topics range from fears of deforestation in the Volga region and resource scarcity predictions in the Soviet Union to the remarkable career of limestone in Germany and global metals crisis of the 1970s. Highly recommended reading!  

It’s safe to say that this impressive output from a single workshop could not have happened over Zoom. I will be eagerly looking forward to a time, hopefully not in a too distant future, when “writing workshops” of this kind can once again be safely held.

From → Energy

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