Network Environmental History

The environment surrounds people in their everyday existence. It is above, below, around and within us. In environmental history, it is regarded as a basic historical category and opens up research into past attributions of meaning, events and structures of the changing relationship between humans and the rest of nature.


Environmental history at the University of Augsburg ranges from Antiquity to the Present and from the historical recording of climate change, eating habits and contamination to the ecological economy of the Enlightenment. It is anchored both regionally and globally.



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The Environmental History Network meets regularly at the Institute of European Cultural History (IEK). Anyone interested in historical research into the interaction between humans and the rest of nature is cordially invited to attend.




Toxicity, Legacy, and Waste

Waste is one of the most complex, contested, and charged objects we humans encounter in our daily lives. It contains narratives of decay and declension, of pollution and toxicity, of resurrection and recovery, and also, of violence and inequality. Waste is ubiquitous - we cannot avoid running into it one way or another, no matter how hard we try to move waste objects out of sight, to bury and burn them, to dispose of, discard or destroy them. Everything is waste and waste is everywhere.


The DFG Heisenberg Professorship concerns itself with different historical avenues into the waste world, among them the global waste economy ( The Toxic Ship

, 2023), Times of Toxics and Toxic Commons.



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Prof. Dr. Simone M. Müller: "The Toxic Ship: The Voyage of the Khian Sea and the Global Waste Trade." Washington: University of Washington Press, 2023.


"In 1986 the Khian Sea, carrying thousands of tons of incinerator ash from Philadelphia, began a two-year journey, roaming the world’s oceans in search of a dumping ground. Its initial destination and then country after country refused to accept the waste. The ship ended up dumping part of its load in Haiti under false pretenses, and the remaining waste was illegally dumped in the ocean. Two shipping company officials eventually received criminal convictions."

Vertical Histories of Power and Place

The ground is not a sealed off entity, but a semi-permeable membrane that facilitates myriad connections between above and below ground. As Bruno Latour invites us to become ‘critical zonists’, he calls us to pay attention to flows exchanges and movement in “the thin skin of the living earth” (the zone) and to consider the lasting, devastating effects of humans on the environment (2020:3). The premise of the ground as a semi-permeable Earthly skin pushes us to tackle how humans have intervened in the interrelations between above ground and below ground. It includes a shift from an understanding of the social world as flat to one of depth and verticality.


Commencing with road corridors as urban skin, the DFG Heisenberg Professorship seeks to disentangle the vertical histories of power and place.

Off the Menu: Appetites, Culture, and Environment

How food is not only produced but also consumed is intimately linked to the environmental crisis. Spotlighting the relationship between human appetites and environmental change, the “Off the Menu: Appetites, Culture, and Environment” research group brings together the fields of food studies and the environmental humanities to introduce what it calls the culinary environmental humanities.


Eating is one of the most direct ways people interact with environments by literally digesting them. Food is also how people experience climate change and confront the question of how to feed a growing population on a planet with limited resources. Food connects the micro with the macro and cuisine is, thus, a unique entry point for contextualizing the sixth mass extinction and the future of planetary health. Cuisine reflects how cultures categorise and mediate human relationships to plants and animals and its study yields an understanding of how people transform the worlds around them. “Off the Menu” seeks to historicise the intimate relationship between cuisine and environmental change and the history of culinary sustainability.


“Off the Menu” takes an interdisciplinary, environmental humanities approach to contextualize the planetary emergency by highlighting the intersection between culture and the environment with a focus on seafood. Three global case studies address how human appetites transform environments and, in turn, how appetites respond to transformed environments: The Newfoundland “Cod Rush” and the environmental crisis; culinary extinction and the ethics of endangered foods; and how cuisines adopt or reject “invasive” species. Taking these examples together, it also investigates the emergence of climate-conscious eating practices.


Environmental Humanities

Awareness of ecological crisis has made its way into different social science and humanities disciplines—ranging from History and Philosophy to Anthropology and Literature—at different points in time. While generating highly diverse scholarly responses in terms of method, subject, and geographical focus, this awareness has inspired a more careful reflection on the concepts of nature, the relationships between nature and culture, and the necessity to emphasize issues of responsibility and (more-than-human) environmental justice.


In recent years, the term Environmental Humanities emerged to capture the growing conjunction across environmental philosophy, environmental history, ecocriticism, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, and political ecology, while also integrating debates so far largely shaped by different disciplinary contexts, such as the Anthropocene.

Walking archive: A teaching laboratory

Walking archive is a research and teaching project situated at the intersection of environmental history and environmental humanities. Bringing together walking as a methodology with historical archival research, the project seeks to experiment with new formats to make historically changing human-environment interactions more tangible and to situate global environmental issues in local spaces in and around Augsburg.