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Seminarium im. Mariana Małowista. “Quantifying crisis”

Zapraszamy na seminarium im. Mariana Małowista z cyklu Seminarium Global History & Anthropology.

Naszym gościem będzie dr Etienne Benson z Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. Wygłosi on wykład “Quantifying crisis: The science and politics of soil erosion in the United States, 1920-1950″.

Seminarium odbędzie się 23 maja 2024 r. o godz. 17.00 w sali 125 na Wydziale Historii UW.

W spotkaniu można wziąć udział także online.



In the 1920s, there was broad consensus among scientists and conservationists in the United States that the arid landscapes of New Mexico, Arizona, and other parts of the Southwest had been eroding at an accelerating pace since the late nineteenth century, with potentially catastrophic consequences. But explanations for the erosion crisis differed widely. On one side were progressive foresters and conservationists such as Aldo Leopold, who argued that overgrazing was to blame. On the other side were geologists such as Kirk Bryan, who argued that climatic change was the primary culprit. At stake in this disagreement was not only a basic scientific question about the causes of landscape change but also a practical and ethical question about human responsibility. In this presentation, I will argue that the crisis of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s shifted the political and epistemic grounds for the debate, changing the way responsibility for catastrophic environmental change was determined and allocated, and helping to lay the foundation for the emergence of the Earth sciences as we know them today.



Etienne Benson is Director of Department II, Knowledge Systems and Collective Life. His research focuses on the history of science, politics, and the environment in the United States and Europe from the eighteenth century to the present.

He is the author of two books, Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) and Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms (University of Chicago Press, 2020), as well as articles on human-animal relations, conservation and environmentalism, and the Earth and environmental sciences. His current work focuses on the political and scientific implications of the development of a quantitative science of landscapes in the mid-twentieth century.

Etienne Benson received his doctorate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008. He has held positions as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, a lecturer at the University of Chicago and New York University–Berlin, and a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. He held positions as assistant and then associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continues to teach as a visiting professor.