Universität Wien FIND
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210168 SE M4: International Politics and Development (2020S)

Climatic environmentalism and Empire

9.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 21 - Politikwissenschaft
Continuous assessment of course work

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Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 40 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Friday 20.03. 09:45 - 16:30 Hörsaal 1 Hauptgebäude Tiefparterre Stiege 1 Hof 1
Friday 08.05. 09:45 - 20:00 Hörsaal 34 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 6
Saturday 09.05. 09:45 - 16:30 Hörsaal 1 Hauptgebäude Tiefparterre Stiege 1 Hof 1
Wednesday 03.06. 13:15 - 16:30 Hörsaal 16 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 5


Aims, contents and method of the course

This course will introduce a historical perspective to reflect upon the origins of western modern environmental consciousness as rooted back in the European imperial expansion. Through selected arguments taken from reference studies on the history of science, history of ideas and environmental history, we will revisit the original context in which the language on “climatic environmentalism” emerges and moves to centre stage in the imperial apparatus. We will look into the origins of modern climatology in 19th century Europe science politics, in the context of the Habsburg scientists of the Austrian Empire - reference book will be Coen, Deborah R. (2018) Climate in Motion. Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

The history of global environmental change over the last 500 years is inseparable from European imperialism. Over this period, the expansion of Europe across the globe has profoundly - and in many stances, irreversibly - transformed and reshaped what we call ‘nature’ (Arnold 1996). In a very fundamental dimension, this all-encompassing totality or system previously referred as ‘nature’ has been increasingly equated to ‘climate’; and the human factor as a main responsible for the disruption of the global climate system is firmly set at the center of the XXI century political and economic agendas.

An introductory historical approach is a grounded entry point to further understanding more complexes problematiques, where opaque political assumptions are embedded in the origins and history of science and its technological narratives. Dynamic climatology (or climate dynamics) is at the basis of current “global circulation models” (GCMs), corner stone in discursive power and policy shaping in climate governance. Climate models are the most authoritative elements of a science-based international climate regime, as they are able to run variables and integrate scales in a climate system analysis, projecting scenarios and mitigation/adaptation options for the future. We will explore and discuss in this context the epistemic and political critique to a truly equitable global climate governance regime - in the sense of how it could be alternatively operationalized, respecting and integrating the plurality and diversity of scales and knowledge systems.

The course will consist of introductory lectures with a survey of the key ideas/concepts/arguments of the works listed below, followed by a discussion.

The second part of our meetings will consist, tentatively, in seminar presentation, individual or in groups. This will depend on the group’s interest in chose and prepare chapters out of any of the works listed below; or, alternatively, we can all read and prepare seminar presentations on: *Coen, Deborah R. (2018) Climate in Motion. Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale. Chicago, University of Chicago Press

The reference works listed below are lengthy and go in depth into historical detail, covering a variety of topics and episodes across latitudes and timelines. Students are encouraged to browse and choose freely a chapter or theme, according to their personal interest/profile and previous knowledge/research.

Assessment and permitted materials

*Class participation and debate: up to 30%
*Final essay (between 8-10 pages): 70%

Upon a general theme/question to be announced, you are expected to elaborate on how the themes addressed in the course interacted with your own inner epistemic map(s), your world-view and belief system. In times of climate emergency and drive for action, this course intends to make a case on the relevance, intellectual and political meaning and of mote in depth historic analysis as part of the critical method.

*Art project (*voluntary): up to 20%
Departing from the critical perspective discussed in class, how would you represent “climate”? What are the distinguished feature of XIX and XX century understandings of this thing object called “climate system”.You can use ANY artistic language you want. How original and cliché- disruptive can you be?

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Examination topics

Reading list

Reading references:
-Anker, Peder (2002) Imperial Ecology: Environmental Order in the British Empire, 1895-1945Harvard, Harvard University Press

-Arnold, David (1996) The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture and European Expansion. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers

*-Coen, Deborah R. (2018) Climate in Motion. Science, Empire and the Problem of Scale. Chicago, University of Chicago Press

-Crosby, Alfred W. ([1972] 2003) The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 London, Praeger

-Grove, Richard (1995) Green imperialism: Colonial expansion, tropical island Edens and the origins of environmentalism, 1600-1860. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Association in the course directory

Last modified: We 15.12.2021 00:22