Research topic: Nature and Culture

Using text analysis and ethnography, we focus on how human interaction with the natural world has changed throughout history.

Photo: Karen V. L. Syse.

Changing human-nature relationships

With a historical-textual perspective on landscape and land-use, as well as on environmentalist thought and activism, SUMs research seeks to understand the historical backdrop for current environmental concern. We emphasizes how humans and animals both shape their environment and are shaped by it, and focus especially on how, in the 20th century, the accelerating impacts of industrialization radically changed both human and animal life worlds.

One of our concerns is to reflect on how the history of human-nature relationships can be put to use in a contemporary setting. How can one imagine a sustainable, good life in our time? Can limits to growth be handled if we cement ideas from the past with ideas in the present? What resources can be found in the historical canon with which to think through our current predicament?

SUMs research on nature and culture

Although much of our research is conducted in the field, we rely on narratives and their interpretation to understand the slow moving changes of mentalities in relation to the accelerating changes of modernity. If texts are at the core of our research, that is because the written word arguably remains the most persuasive of representational forms. Texts fire the imagination, and give pause for thought. Texts about Nature are anchored in a literary tradition of natural history writing and popular field science, and present-day nature writing is of critical interest for its potential to energise and politicise a wider public readership concerned by environmental issues.


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Published Aug. 17, 2011 3:53 PM - Last modified Aug. 7, 2017 2:55 PM