Climate Histories: Communicating Cultural Knowledge of Environmental Change

21 January 2011 - 22 January 2011

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge


Dr Barbara Bodenhorn (Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Dr Hildegard Diemberger (MIASU, University of Cambridge)
Libby Peachey (MIASU, University of Cambridge)


Conference Summary

Scientific accounts of changes in environment and climate typically involve intricate measurements of changes in temperatures, and complex meteorological modeling. However there are other accounts of change, these might be inferred for example through the changing behaviour of particular species of animals and plants or through the arrival of new types of weather. Information about climatic change - both current and in the past - may be embedded in genres such as folklore, stories, song, poetry, life histories and even monastic records. Elements of scientific accounts may be drawn upon, or it may be eschewed altogether.
Climate histories are a vital source of information. They can tell us a great deal about the environmental change that has happened in the past, the effects this had had upon the humans (and other species) living through it, and the strategies that have been adopted in order to deal with such changes. But there are also difficulties in taking these accounts at face value. They may be difficult to obtain, and they present complex challenges for analysis. These include questions of reliability, genre, audience, and performance. They can be analysed both in terms of the information they contain, and the intellectual and emotional responses of those who hear them.
To understand these climate histories better, we need to pool expertise from a variety of disciplines, including social anthropology, history, and the humanities. These disciplines have each developed differing methodologies for documenting and interpreting the significance of particular genres of communication within the contexts in which they are produced. The conference will bring together experts from these areas, putting them in dialogue with climate specialists in the natural sciences on the one hand, and publics interested in producing and consuming climate histories on the other.

Accommodation for non-paper giving participants

Conference participants can find information about accommodation in Cambridge at the following URLs:
NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.



The conference organisers are grateful for the generous support provided by CRASSH and the Arts and  Humanities Research Council



Administrative assistance: Helga Brandt (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)