Our paper at the International Conference of Historical Geographers

5 07 2015

Dr Kirsten Greer will be presenting our paper at the 2015 International Conference of Historical Geographers in London (for venue, see photo above). Details of the panel are below.

Session 97: Historical and cultural geographies of woods and forests (1)

Session abstract:

Our historical geographies are inextricably intertwined with the histories of forests and woodland. From being sites of living and work, spaces of agriculture and forestry, central in the emergence of legal systems and codifications of rights, and in inspiring much popular culture, the historical geographies of forests and woodland cut across space and time. Woodland is a complex category and its utility and the cultural values ascribed to it are diverse, whether it is tilled or grazed by domestic stock; a provider of status or symbolic power, a site of traditional management or scientific experimentation. In recent years there has been a significant revival in interest in the study of woodland and forests by cultural and historical geographers. Given this critical and creative remaking of forest history – and that 2017 will mark the 800th anniversary of England’s defining Charter of the Forest – this session seeks to bring together geographers and others in exploring emergent themes and critical congruencies in understanding our tree-bound pasts.

View abstracts online: http://conference.rgs.org/ICHG/97

Th2 | RGS-LR

Convenors Carl Griffin (University of Sussex, UK), Charles Watkins (University of Nottingham, UK)

Chair Carl Griffin (University of Sussex, UK)

Empire, Trees, and Climate in the North Atlantic: Towards Critical Dendro-Provenancing
Kirsten Greer (Nipissing University, Canada)
Adam Csank (Nipissing University, Canada)
Kirby Calvert (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Kimberly Monk (University of Bristol, UK)
Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool, UK)
Margot Maddison MacFadyen (Memorial University, Canada)
How can historical geographies of British imperial expansion, trade networks, and commodity frontiers inform forest and climate histories? This paper contributes to mixed methods in forest histories and climate change research by combining theoretical and methodological approaches in historical geography, dendrochronology, and GIS to understand how the Atlantic triangle trade in timber can inform studies on climate. In the early to mid-nineteenth century, British North America was an integral site in Britain’s triangular trade of timber, fish, sugar, rum, and molasses with the West Indies. Known today as eastern Canada, the region’s forests and watersheds were transformed into the “modern” world system as the Crown secured lands and timber rights during the Napoleonic Wars. Considering that British North American timber was integral to ship-building, imperial infrastructure (dockyards, fortifications, government buildings), and maritime supremacy in the age of sail, we provide an overview our our preliminary findings on how archival and museum research, dendro-provenancing (e.g. analysis of tree ring widths of historic buildings and shipwrecks), and visualizing techniques using GIS can provide important insights into climatic conditions of the past. We also discuss the theoretical challenges of using mixed methods in climate change research, especially when bringing together different approaches from the humanities and environmental sciences, and in thinking about the role of non-human agency in climate change. This project is funded by the Government of Canada’s SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2014-2016).
Uprooted, blackened, burnt and diseased: exploring the historical geography of extreme weather and trees
Lucy Veale (University of Nottingham, UK)
Georgina Endfield (University of Nottingham, UK)
“…Like regiments fallen in battle” was how John Evelyn described the loss of 2,000 oaks on his Surrey estate in the Great Storm of 1703. The uprooting of trees is a sign of the power of storms, an impact that can cause significant and long-lasting changes to the landscape, as well as hamper daily activities through the obstruction of roadways or the bringing down of power lines, cause injury or death, affect livelihood, and trigger emotional reactions. Damage to trees through strong winds, intense rains, lightning, drought, frost, or by rust or blight linked to climatic conditions is one of the more common impacts of extreme weather events recorded in the documentary record. This paper will explore the impacts of, and responses to, extreme weather related tree damage, drawing on historical examples. The paper draws on research using personal diaries and letters that record the impact of extreme weather on garden trees, and estate and agricultural papers noting the effects on larger plantations of fruit, timber and parkland trees. We also explore linkages between forest, woodland and climate histories, and consider whether the loss of trees may constitute a very visual measure by which weather events can be judged ‘extreme’.
Anthropomorphizing Landscapes, Naturalizing People: Cultural Narratives of Forests in Asia Minor / Turkey
Hande Ozkan (Transylvania University Kentucky, USA)
Historically forest landscapes of Asia Minor have been represented by two narratives: travellers’ accounts and the discourse of professional foresters. Constructs of European perceptions of modernity and civilization, travellers’ accounts are Orientalist and romanticized; they anthropomorphize landscapes while attributing the features of the natural landscape to human populations. On the contrary professional foresters’ first hand observations of these landscapes and the peoples who inhabited them offer a more realistic, contextual albeit scientific perspective on how residents of Asia Minor lived on, worked with and changed their forest landscapes. How did modernity manifest itself in the ways travellers and professional foresters imagined and represented the landscapes of Asia Minor? What were their assumptions on the linkages between nature and civilization? And how were these ideas influential in the way nature was imagined, represented and managed in modern Turkey? This paper will offer a comparative analysis of how Asia Minor’s forests were represented in travelogues and forestry reports from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Historical and ethnographic research on Turkish forestry will complement this analysis by investigating the vernacularization of the discourses on nature and culture in the context of forestry in modern Turkey throughout the 20th century.
Tropicality, etymology and Indian nature: a brief history of the word jungle
Julian Baker (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
Since Bernard Smith’s European Vision and the South Pacific, geographers have sought to understand Western interpretations of tropical nature. The Indian subcontinent has figured ambiguously within the ‘tropical world’. While lush vegetation, fruit and spice production and a warm climate depicted India affirmatively, medical discourses, mortality rates and everyday colonial experience depicted India as a land of disease and degeneration. During the early nineteenth-century the word jungle entered English (and then other European languages). In Indian languages jangal denoted uncultivated land, dry, forested or swampy. Jungle, however, came to denote wet, dense forests and came to connote a rich contrast between the relatively benign and well-ordered temperate forests and the tangled, mysterious and dank vegetation that constituted tropical forests? (Arnold, 1998, p. 2). This paper traces the word jungle from its adoption into English by colonial officers, administrators and doctors to its metaphorical flights in the early twentieth-century popular culture. It argues that the literal foundations and figurative exaggerations of the word jungle express the predominantly ‘dark’ nineteenth-century British notions of ‘tropical’ Indian nature – an exotic and hazardous environmental counterpart to relatively benign and civilised temperate nature.
Forest Rights of Indigenous Communities in Koraput: Now and Then
Kamla Khanal (University of Nottingham, UK)
The current Koraput forest sub-division and its landscape is a live canvas, holding impressions of its rich cultural, economic and political history. The influence of its past kingdoms, Mughal invaders, British colonisers and post-independence politics; are intrinsically intertwined with the dominating indigenous identity of Koraput. The region today is identified as a key zone of the indigenous heartland of Central India, is a representative of a lively display of tribal ways of life and the tussles of mainstreaming them into the Indian economy. The inhabitants of this forest rich region were referred as the ‘privilege holders’ by the past laws. Their forest use rights were informally recognised by the local kingships and these rights were widely known to all the different groups settled in these regions though a system of customary rights. Today when the Forest Rights Act of India is attempting to ‘re-recognize’ a part of these ‘lost rights’, there is a power and identity struggle going on between the Government agencies and the indigenous claimants; and within the different groups residing in and around the forest lands. The efforts to re-restore forest land and use rights are expected to create new contests and ambiguities for forest land management in Koraput and similar regions elsewhere in India.



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