Jewish European Environmental History
Jewish European Environmental History
Environmental history or the study of human interactions with nature over time, has emerged as a subdiscipline during the 1980s and has ever since engaged with various other theoretical frameworks and historical subfields. Throughout the last decades environmental historians have investigated the manifestation of human perceptions and practices concerning the natural environment in relation to political, social, gender, religious, and economic aspects. Unfortunately, Jewish history has not yet gained sufficient attention within this context.
The historiography of European Jews, which in recent decades accepted the spatial turn in the humanities, has so far mainly dealt with aspects of Jewish urban life, albeit without specifically considering environmental aspects of city dwelling. In addition, the Jewish relationship to nature was so far mainly addressed in relation to Zionist youth movements and the work of the Hachsharot (agricultural training) in Europe. Moreover, studies of Zionism have already analysed images and practices related to nature and landscape in Europe as well as in Israel/Palestine. Nevertheless, they have not yet systematically engaged with the critical/ theoretical literature in environmental history and its key subjects.
In our research group, we intend to define the role of Jewish and Zionist history within environmental history and examine in what ways it is different and/or similar to other case studies. By doing so we also intend to stress the transnational, global and comparative aspects in Jewish history. In addition, alongside cultural environmental aspects we wish to also emphasise some of the material aspects in Jewish environmental history while examining attitudes and approaches to specific natural elements such as air, climate, water, soil, flora and fauna.
The research group holds monthly online meetings, starting in October 2021, discussing recent work in (German) Jewish Environmental history as well as work in progress by participants. Rather than focusing on formal presentations, we hope to create a genuine dialogue between the participants on historiographical issues pertaining to Jewish-Environmental history. Every session will be devoted to a different historiographical inquiry and in it, two/three participants will lead a conversation about a certain topic and share with us their findings, knowledge and experience.
Scholars who are interested in environmental history, history of science, intellectual history, cultural and social history as well as Jewish history more generally (from antiquity to modernity) are participating in the research group.
The group is convened by Dr. Netta Cohen (Oxford) and Dr. Dominik Hünniger (Hamburg).
Dominik Hünniger is working on environmental, medical and natural history as well as the history of universities in the long 18th century with a special focus on collections and the material culture of science and knowledge. Currently based at the Centre for Advanced Study “Imaginaria of Force” at the University of Hamburg, he is preparing a monograph on the history of entomology between 1680-1820. He joined the Centre from the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, the Göttingen Institute of Advanced Study, where he was the managing director since 2012. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, an affiliate researcher at the Hunterian, University of Glasgow and the Zoological Museum in Hamburg. He is co-editor of the series “Emergence of Natural History” (ENH) and a member of the advisory board for Nuncius – Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science, both published by Brill. As co-founder of the Collection Ecologies Research Collective he employs environmental history & humanities perspectives and decolonial approaches to explore the circumstances and environments in which organisms and objects were found and created for collections. In the context of the Jewish European Environmental History’ Research Group he will look at how Jewish scholars, like Immanuel Löw, Siegfried Lichtenstaedter, Shimon and Rachel Bodenheimer and others, (re-)constructed Jewish natural or environmental heritage through historical ecologies of Judaism and Jewish literature and material culture.
Netta Cohen is a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church College, the University of Oxford. She has completed her doctoral degree in 2019 at the Centre for History of Science, Medicine and Technology at the University of Oxford. Her DPhil dissertation addressed Jewish climate science in Palestine during the first half of the twentieth century. Cohen’s current research project focuses on the relationship between environmentalism and militarism in Israel starting from the 1960s until today. In 2018 she co-founded the Oxford Environmental History Network which aims to connect researchers working on environmental history at the University. In the course of her doctoral studies, she received several scholarships and fellowships, including the Pears Foundation Scholarship, the Leo Baeck scholarship, the graduate research fellowship at the Center for Jewish History in New York City and a research affiliation at the Taub Center for Israel Studies in NYU. Since 2020 she is also a member of the editorial board of the Social History Workshop in Haaretz newspaper.
David Atar is a Ph.D. student in the department of History at UT Austin. His research focuses on the social, economic, and environmental history of the modern middle east, with special attention to agricultural policies and commodities, knowledge production, and food provision policies. He is currently working on the circulation of agricultural commodities and their cultural networks across and beyond the eastern Mediterranean during the interwar period. Together with Raymond Hyser, he founded the "Material History Workshop" - a bi-monthly graduate workshop centered around material culture.
Tzafrir Barzilay is a post-doctoral fellow at the Haifa Center for Mediterranean History. He is interested in the development of the common perceptions of Jews and Christians, and their change throughout the Middle Ages, in particular around the subject of water. In 2016, he received a PhD from Columbia University in New York. He is the author of Poisoned Wells: Accusation, Persecution and Minorities in Medieval Europe, 1321-1422 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). Barzilay is currently investigating lay beliefs and practices pertaining to water in Jewish and Christian life from 1050 to 1450 in Europe, focusing on the tensions between the different meanings attributed to water by Jews and Christians in the context of its wide range of practical and ritual uses. He is also studying the roles that rivers played in shaping the history of medieval European Jews.
Mona Bieling is a PhD candidate and Teaching Assistant in International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva (IHEID). Her dissertation revolves around different types of landscape changes in mandatory Palestine. She investigates how such changes have influenced the power relationships between the British colonial power and the Zionist movement. Mona has worked as Research Assistant for "The Myth of Homogeneity. Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919-1939", a three year long project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. She holds a BA in Language and Culture Studies from Utrecht University and an MA in International History from IHEID. She has spent semesters at the American University in Cairo, Egypt and Haifa University in Israel.
Maya Duany is an environmental historian and a Lecturer in Tel Hai Academic College, Israel. She completed her doctoral degree in 2010 at Haifa University. Her main interest is the connections between environmental perceptions and Judaism and Zionism history. Her recent book is: The Hula Swamp as a symbol of Israel's Developing Attitude Toward the Environment, 2020, Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben Zvi (Hebrew). She is one of the activists in the Israeli Forum for Environmental History, which is affiliated to the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH). Recently she received a grant from Gesher Multicultural Film Fund (GMFF). The aim of the grant is to create a documentary film based on her research about the Hula wetland.
Leena Eilittä is docent of comparative literature at the University of Helsinki. Modern German-Jewish literature belongs to her major research interests. Her doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford dealt with the question of identity in Kafka´s stories which was published as Approaches to Personal Identity in Kafka´s short fiction: Freud, Darwin, Kierkegaard (1999). More recently she has undertaken research on Hermann Broch´s poetry at Marbach Archive in Germany. Her present research project focuses upon Viennese Modernist writers, their connections to World Literature, Jungian philosophy and ecology. In 2021 she co-organized a symposium about Viennese Modernism at the University of Arts in Helsinki. Eilittä´s article “´Glocalism´: Local and Global in Richard Beer-Hofmann´s Der Tod Georg” is being published in From the Enlightenment to Modernism: Three Centuries of German Literature. Essays for Ritchie Robertson (Legend 2022).
Efrat Gilad is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Bern. Her position is formulated around “Jewish Studies, Ecology, and Sustainability” and her courses explore Jewish environmental histories. Her current research project explores livestock economies and ecologies between Europe, Palestine, and Israel. Her broader work concerns social and cultural histories of food, consumption, and agriculture, especially the intertwined histories of food and animals in urban colonial and settler-colonial settings. Efrat completed her PhD in International History at The Graduate Institute, Geneva, where her doctoral project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Doc.CH grant. She is currently working on a book manuscript, titled Meat in the Heat, on the history of meat production and consumption in British Mandate Palestine.
Elle Larsson is a historian of science, specialising in the history of natural history and history of animals. She completed her PhD, ‘Collecting, Curating and the Construction of Zoological Knowledge: Walter Rothschild’s Zoological Enterprise, c.1878-1937’, at King’s College London in April 2020. Elle has since joined the Graduate School at the University of Westminster. Her current research interests include natural history networks, zoo history and exotic animal ownership and she recently published her first article entitled ‘On deposit’: Dealing with death in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London’ in Archives of Natural History (April 2021). Elle also devotes her time to her role on the Council for Society for the History of Natural History as Social Media, Communications and Promotions Secretary and as co-founder of the international Animal History Group.
Tobias Mörike is a museum curator and researcher. He is interested in environmental histories of West Asia through the lens of collections. In his PhD dissertation he studied spatial and environmental narratives of maps and scientific specimen of German Palestine Exploration and questioned the circulation of Christian-Imperial perceptions into early Zionism. Among other subjects he is interested in the history of scientific missions and Early Zionist Expertise on Palestinian Agriculture.
Tetiana Perga has a PhD in History from the Kiev State University named Taras Shevchenko, Kiev, Ukraine. Since 1993, she has been working in the National Academy of Science of Ukraine: in 1993-2013 – in the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, from 2014 till now – in the Institute of World History. At the moment, she is senior researcher. She is an author of 140 articles, co-author of 7 books and author of 2 individual books that focused on different aspects of environmental history. She is a Head of the Ukrainian Representative office of ESEH, Head of Editorial Board of “American History and Politics. Academic Journal” (Ukraine), member of Editorial Board of “European Historic Studies: Academic Journal” (Ukraine), member of Editorial Board of “Foreign Affairs. Academic Journal” (Ukraine); and expert of Ministry of education and science of Ukraine. In 2021, her project “Strategies of survival of Jews in Kyiv region in 1930s” received financing of Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.
Maria Piekarska is a doctoral candidate within the Interdisciplinary PhD Program “Nature-Culture” at the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Artes Liberales. Her research interests focus on the spatial, environmental and material dimensions of memory, especially the nexus of identity-building practices with natural environments and possible fusions between the environmental humanities and the area of memory studies. Following a material-semiotic approach, her doctoral dissertation in Cultural Studies addresses the development of Jewish-Israeli culture of remembrance in afforested spaces, conceptualizing Israeli forest as an organic-commemorative assemblage. Out of academia Maria is engaged in non-governmental work in the area of Polish-Jewish memory. Within the Research Group, she will follow convergences of nature and memory in the Polish-Jewish context, particularly Jewish attitudes towards the natural realm in early XX century Poland.
Jonathan Schorsch holds the Chair in Jewish Religious and Intellectual History at the University of Potsdam (Germany). Among his relevant recent publications are: “The Return of the Tribe: Jews, Counterculture and Native Americans,” Common Knowledge 27.1 (January 2021): 40-85. “Olive Oil, Anointing and Ecology,” Ritual Dynamics in Judaism and Christianity, ed. Claudia Bergmann and Benedikt Kranemann (Leiden: Brill, 2019),. The Food Movement, Culture and Religion: A Tale of Pigs, Christians, Jews and Politics (New York: Palgrave, 2018). “Looking for an Ecological God,” Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, ed. Martin S. Cohen, Saul Berman and David Birnbaum (New York: New Paradigm Publishing, 2019). “Sabbath for the Anthropocene Age,” One World – Many Faiths: Religious Contributions to Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, Berliner Reihe für Mission, Ökumene und Dialog (Berlin: Wichern Verlag, 2019). In 2016 he founded the Jewish Activism Summer School (Berlin). In 2019 he founded the Green Sabbath Project.
Franziska Weinmann is a PhD candidate at the Center for Israel Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In her dissertation, titled “Mediterranean Positions. Jewish Perspectives about the Land and the Sea“, she traces the historical change and impact of Jewish spatial notions in their relation to the Mediterranean Sea from the opening of the Tel Aviv port in 1936 to 1967. Her research interests are Modern Jewish history, Spatial Theory, Mediterranean Historiography and Culture. Franziska holds an MA in European Studies from the University of Leipzig and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Cultural Studies and Applied Aesthetics from the University of Hildesheim.