Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion
research group

Environmental Humanities

The research group brings together an interdisciplinary group of research faculty and PhD students with an interest in environmental issues.

A marker on top of a mountain
Stone cairn above Bergen.

Main content

Our research encompasses a vast range of human interactions with the physical world, from ancient migration to contemporary climate resilience.

The Environmental Humanities research group is an interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars in the fields of history, archaeology, cultural studies, linguistics, literature, media studies, political science, social anthropology, science and technology studies, and beyond. Its composition reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the field of environmental humanities, which bridges the divide between the natural sciences and the humanities, as well as that between the academy and society, by applying humanistic methods and modes of thought to environmental subjects.

Our research encompasses a vast range of human interactions with the physical world, from ancient migration to contemporary climate resilience. Please see individual members’ profiles and biographies for further details on our research interests, affiliations, and areas of expertise.

Programme 2023

30. August
Kl. 11-12

Johanna Gunn, "Referencing in climate change discourse - a polyphonic study of academic discourse, political communication, and written press." 
Location: Øystensgate 3, Seminarrom 1

4. Sept

UiB Latin America and the Caribbean Conference, "Winds of Change and Streams of Solidarity."
Registration required; see program for details. Sessions of special interest to the research group include the following:

Kl. 10:30-11:15, Keynote by Terje Tvedt, "Streams of water history: Perspectives of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe"

Kl. 12:15-1:45, Panel discussion: "Water and Resources in the Last Frontier."

Kl. 15:15-16:45, Panel discussion, "Energy transition in the global economy: impacts for Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe."

Location: University Aula

13. Sept
Kl. 11-12
Environmental Humanities Research Group general meeting. Lunch provided. 
Location: Øystensgate 3, Seminarrom 1.
17. Oct
Kl. 11-12

Louis-Emmanuel Pille-Schneider: Tempestuous temporalities. The Joola’s last voyage and its memorialization in Fatou Diome’s Les Veilleurs de Sangomar
Location: Online

Late October,
date and time TBD
Lecture by Mark Healey (History, University of Connecticut): Natural (?) Catastrophes at the end of the world.
Presented by The Last Workshop: Latin America and the End of the World

Late Nov.,
date and time TBD

Lecture by Mariano Siskind (Literature, Harvard University): Towards a Cosmopolitan Loss: An Essay on Latin American Nature at the End of the World. 
Presented by The Last Workshop: Latin America and the End of the World
15. Feb.,
Presentation of short film "The Bonding", by artist Michelle Letelier, and conversation with Letelier and Martin Lee Mueller (University of Oslo, author of Being Human Being Salmon).
Presented by The Last Workshop: Latin America and the End of the World
Late May, 
date and time TBD
Two-day workshop, The Last Workshop: Latin America and the End of the World

Selected Projects

Group members engage with scholars from around the world with support from the European Research Council, the Norwegian Research Council, and other major funding entities. The following is a partial list of ongoing projects.

Past events

11 April
Kl. 2:15–4

Douglas Northrop: Earthquakes and Empire Along the Eurasian Frontier
Location: Sydneshaugen Skole, Aud. Q

31 May
Kl. 11–12

Runa Falk, "Mitigating climate change: Norwegian citizens’ perceptions of individuals’ role."
Location: Øistiens gate 3, Seminarrom 1


CALENDARS: Co-Production of Seasonal Representations for Adaptive Institutions

Principal investigator: Scott Bremer

The CALENDARS project empirically explores the ways people perceive and effect seasonal patterns in different communities and fields of activity, focusing mainly on places in New Zealand and Norway. A central concern is how peoples’ cultural calendars of seasons can support or hinder their adaptation to rapid changes in seasonal rhythms, through climatic but also other environmental and social changes. The overall objective of the project is to advance knowledge and understanding of how seasonal representations shape and are shaped by institutions, and to critically appraise the quality of these representations for contributing to successful adaptation to seasonal change.

Read more: Project webpage 


CLIMLIFE: Living with climate change: motivation and action for lifestyle change

Principal investigator: Kjersti Fløttum

The CLIMLIFE project studies how Norwegian citizens relate the challenges of climate change to their normal, day-to-day life choices. As part of this project, researchers from linguistic, media, political and natural sciences conduct surveys and use multiple tools of language analysis to develop knowledge about how Norwegians are confronting – or failing to confront – the realities of our changing climate.

Read more: Project webpage

Gardening the globe

Gardening the Globe: Historicizing the Anthropocene through the production of socio-nature in Scandinavia, 1750–2020

Principal investigator: Kyrre Kverndokk

This project is an interdisciplinary and international research project exploring the historical processes through which nature has been conquered, controlled and commodified in Scandinavia during the last 250 years. Its principal objective is to examine the relationship between Western modernity and the emergence of the Anthropocene by exploring the historical processes that have led to the Anthropocene as an increasing intensification of attempts to conquer, control and utilize nature. The project hosted an international conference at UiB in the spring of 2022 and participants are working on multiple publications. Beginning in the spring of 2023, the Gardening the Globe project holds a reading group open to members of the research group.

Read more: Project webpage 

Research School in Environmental Humanities 

The Norwegian Researcher School in Environmental Humanities (NoRS-EH)

Contact: Kyrre Kverndokk

In cooperation with NTNU, UiA, UiO and UiS, the Environmental Humanities research group runs the Norwegian Research School in Environmental Humanities (NoRS-EH). The research school was created as a transdisciplinary initiative meant to strengthen the Norwegian humanities' contribution to environmental research and the large, global challenges the world is facing. Every other August, the Environmental Humanities Research Group organizes and runs a course on climate research for PhD candidates who are members of the research group as well as for international participants. The final cycle of this course will take place in the summer of 2024.

Read more: Researcher school webpage 


Quantifying the impact of major cultural transitions on marine ecosystem functioning and biodiversity

Contact: Ramona Harrison

Ocean conservation is a global concern, but researchers say we don’t currently know what the oceans were like before major impacts caused by humans. Using sediments, shells and bones, and a host of cutting-edge analysis techniques, the SEACHANGE project aims to find out. The interdisciplinary project will test the scale and rate of biodiversity loss as a result of fishing and habitat destruction over the last 2,000 years in the North Sea and around Iceland, eastern Australia and the west Antarctic Peninsula, as well as the earlier transition from hunter-gatherer to farming communities in northern Europe around 6,000 years ago. The project will discover how depleted the current marine environment is, what measures are needed to help biodiversity to recover, and how long this might take.

Read more: Project webpage

Projects in development

With support from the Faculty of Humanities, members of the group are currently developing projects on the following topics:

Anglophone textbook on Norwegian history

Principal investigators: Sarah Hamilton & Ines Prodöhl

In cooperation with the Transnational History research group, members of the Environmental Humanities research group will co-edit and contribute chapters to a research-based textbook on Norwegian history, written in English. The only such book currently in print is nearly thirty years old and does not reflecte current research on transnational connections, environmental contingencies, gender, ethnicity, or a range of other subjects. Environmental topics covered in the book will include the exploitation and exchange of Norway’s natural resources during the Iron Age; the impacts of global biotic networks (from the Bubonic Plague to the Columbian Exchange) on Norwegian society and culture; the role of Norwegian climate and geology in pastoral, agricultural and industrial development; and Norway’s emergence as a pioneer of environmental policy in the late twentieth century.

Groundwater studies

Principal investigator: Sarah Hamilton

Groundwater accounts for 98 percent of the Earth's liquid freshwater and is the sole source of drinking water for approximately 50 percent of the world’s population, including 75 percent of the European population. As climate change has contributed to more erratic precipitation and high rates of evaporation from superficial water bodies, groundwater has become still more central to the maintenance of sanitary, agricultural, and industrial systems. Nonetheless, aquifers are under growing pressure from pollution and overexploitation, as policies and practices have failed to adequately adapt to changing physical and social conditions. Long-established patterns of unsustainable groundwater use consistently generate resource conflicts, social and economic instability, and environmental degradation. Studies of groundwater from humanities-based perspectives—the historical roots of present crises, the social construction of scientific models, the legal imaginaries surrounding hidden resources, and more—can inform policymakers and water users as we look towards a future in which water underground becomes ever more critical to survival. To that end, members of the Environmental Humanities research group are working with scholars from around the world to expand humanities-based research on this topic. In 2025, members of the Environmental Humanities group plan to host an international workshop that will promote collaboration and communication on this crucial topic.

Sustainable animal feed

Principal investigator: Marit Bjærke

In its new long-term plan for research and higher education 2023–2032, the Norwegian government launched the national mission “sustainable animal feed” with the goal that all feed for farmed fish and livestock should come from sustainable sources and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food systems. “Sustainable animal feed” is one of only two national missions in the long-term plan and is expected to provide an important funding opportunity in the coming years. To develop environmentally sustainable business and agriculture, we need a deeper historical understanding of the connections between and development of sustainability, fodder, biodiversity, monoculture, and economic effects. Members of the environmental humanities group will therefore develop an interdisciplinary research project on the cultural history of sustainable animal feed and apply for funding from the Norwegian Research Council in 2024. A two-day project development workshop will be arranged in Bergen in 2023, with invited researchers from other institutions as well as members of the environmental humanities group. We also hope to include researchers from UiB’s Center for Sustainable Area Management (CeSAM).

The making of modern industrial food systems

Principal investigator: Elena Kochetkova

This research project examines the industrial making of food from the mid-20th century until now. By the 1950s, industrial food manufacturing became a key priority of the modern economy globally. Increasing the production of agricultural and manufactured foodstuffs was a matter of improving living standards, which many states used in their modernity projects. For example, from 1961 the Soviet leadership declared the building of industrial infrastructures for modern food making as a crucial step in reaching communism. At the same time, modern food became a key concept of growing consumerist societies in Western Europe and North America. Globally, the role of science and technology in making food products had significantly increased, promising improvements in both the quantity and quality of nutrition. In addition, many engineers developed projects on using food waste in industrial manufacturing of food and experimented with the use of various remnants — from animals` bones to dried bread — in the context of so called economic rationalization. Modern technology was to be a tool for transforming waste into food making it a thing between a material by-product and progress. This project examines how food modernity was developing in Europe (with a huge emphasis on East-Central Europe) during the (post)-Cold War in a global context of technological change.