Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Author Replies # Posted on March 7, 2014 at 12:43

In reply to Yu Wang:

I sincerely apologize for my late comment, I have been in transit these last few days, but luckily for me your response and reply to saelrodr’s (Sarah’s?) comment betrays your passion for this topic. I will try to add to this discussion!

It seems that Sarah very fairly raised some questions about your apparent conflation of global core, periphery, and mixed zone divisions with nation states. Saelrodr, your point is truly salient to me at the moment – I am writing from a café (with free wifi) in Junction Mall in Nairobi (see link here I am sitting in a bastion of privilege in the global south, I certainly don’t feel like I am experiencing the capital periphery that is so often equated with conceptualizations of Africa.

Yet judging from your reply to Sarah’s comment Yu, you didn’t intend to equate one with the other. It seems that you both share the view that there are core, periphery and mixed zone divisions at the national level, and I can confirm (sips latte) this is true.

If I understand you correctly Yu in your response to Sarah’s comment, you actually feel that the question “what is wrong with the nation-state as a unit of analysis for environmental history” is too leading. You believe, and I agree with you, that the nation-state cannot be dismissed in evaluations of global environmental history. In fact to advocate a theoretical approach that places focus on any one identified unit of analysis is really quite reductionist and runs the risk of excluding important economic, cultural, political, and biophysical spheres. Perhaps a more inclusive question would have been “what is wrong with the nation-state as the sole or even primary unit of analysis for environmental history?”

I really agreed with Alf Hornborg in the seminar when he discussed the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to research, which is a stance that aligns with theories of world-systems. I think it is important for researchers to try to retain their own disciplinary strengths but also to draw on wider interdisciplinary literature, all the time walking the fine line between over-generalizing non-critical source inclusion and a truly insightful and complex study. Interdisciplinary skills are particularly challenging for us early career research types as we are still developing as academics. I believe that the global environment masters course is so interesting though, because the student body draws on such a wide range of disciplines and the course material seems focused on integrating research perspectives. This is really reflected in your exciting exchange Yu and Sarah, I am glad to be included in your discourse!