CFP: The Environmental Histories of Ports and Ocean Trade

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2015 Port City Lives: The Annual Conference of the Centre for Port and Maritime History

Call for papers
“The Environmental Histories of Ports and Ocean Trade”
Liverpool, 18th-19th September 2015

The waterfront of the great port city of Liverpool is still dotted with huge warehouses that were once dedicated to the oceanic trade in a wide variety of different natural products; from rice and sugar to bananas and cotton. They are testament to profoundly important commodity trades that encircled the world, helping to establish Liverpool as a leading commercial metropolis of the British Empire. The 4th annual Port City Lives conference, organized by the Centre for Port and Maritime History and to be held in Liverpool 18th-19th September 2015, will reflect on the theme of “The Environmental Histories of Ports and Ocean Trade.”
Throughout history, humans have exchanged and traded in biological agents, specimens, and commodities, often with very dramatic and unequal effects on environments and ecologies, cultures, nations, and economies. Since the Columbian Exchange, the number of organisms (human and non-human) passing through the world’s ports has increased dramatically. Natural resource extraction, exploitation, and transfer has been both enriching and denuding – for human societies and natural worlds. Impacts are felt in both exporting and importing locations. They have reshaped human nutrition and been central to core industries of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. They have introduced new sources of pleasure and enjoyment to societies, as well as inducing fear and anxiety about invasion by ‘alien’ species. Port cities are obvious loci for these very long-running and deeply embedded flows and processes. They are key points through which transfers are handled and in which they are made manifest. Ports have risen and fallen with the fortunes of the resources passing through them. They have helped reshape ecologies and have themselves had their own environments reshaped, for example by dramatic changes in waterfront topography or the importation and naturalization of non-indigenous species of flora and fauna. Building on a growing interest in integrating environmental history with other sub-disciplines, this two-day conference will reflect on environmental histories of port cities and ocean trade. This theme will have a wide appeal, to, amongst others: environmental historians and historical geographers, food historians, social and cultural historians, business and economic historians, historians of empire, subaltern studies, archaeologists. Topics of potential interest might included but are not limited to:

• Ports and environmental knowledge
• Environmental histories of oceans, estuaries, and marine life
• The role of ships in connecting transoceanic ports
• Ports in the age of sail versus the age of fossil fuels
• Ports in temperate and tropical worlds
• Ports as exotic and liminal environments
• Ports, urban development, and pollution
• Ports, tourism and the environment
• The environmental histories of fishing industries and fishing ports
• Commodities, empires, and expansion?
• Changing port and riparian topographies and ecologies
• Quarantines: human and non-human
• Environmental history, ports and food systems (from cuisine, to food security, to the political economy of international food trade)
• Ports as sites of biological – and other – invasions
• Ports and climate history
• The built environments of port landscapes and waterscapes: histories and legacies

We are interested in receiving proposals for either individual papers or full panels. For individual papers please send an abstract of no more than one A4 page and a brief biography. For panels (no more than three papers) please send abstracts and biographies for each paper and a cover sheet briefly outlining the rationale of the panel. Please send all proposals to Professor Andrew Popp at by 30th June 2015

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Kirsten Greer is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Geography and History at Nipissing University, and the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Global Environmental Histories and Geographies. Her CRC program addresses specifically reparations “in place” from Northern Ontario to the Caribbean through interdisciplinary, integrative, and engaged (community-based) scholarship in global environmental change research. As a critical historical geographer, she is interested in human-environment relations in the past; the environmental histories and legacies of the British Empire; and the politics of biodiversity heritage in the global North Atlantic. Greer is the past chair of the Historical Geography Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers (2016-2019). She is of Scottish-Scandinavian descent, from the unceded lands of Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. She currently lives and works on the traditional territory of the Nbisiing Nishnaabeg, and the lands protected by the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850.

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