Amsterdam German Studies Lecture

Living in a Vortex: On Writing World History at a Time of Globalisation Blues

The glory days of globalisation are over. After the sobering experiences of the last few years, little remains of the faith that growing international exchange will foster mutual understanding and cooperation. At the same, the environmental crisis makes it ever more important to think on a global scale. Pollution knows no borders, and the same holds true for erosion, loss of biodiversity, climate change and other issues at the interface of man and the natural world. The predicament of our times urges a new type of world history. In his Amsterdam German Studies Lecture, Frank Uekötter offers a novel approach.

According to historian Frank Uekötter, today’s world history writing should allow us to chart the trajectory of humans and their environments in the age of global modernity: what if we view ourselves as captives of a giant, planet-sized vortex with plenty of turbulence, cross-currents, and efforts to regulate or manipulate the flow of water? The vortex evokes a sense of being pushed around by faceless material forces, reflecting the insights of earth system science and the case for a new geological epoch, the anthropocene. At the same time, there is plenty of human agency inside a vortex, as humans seek to work with the flow or simply stay above water. But most of all, the concept provides a powerful reminder that we need a new mode of historical narration. Linear narratives with clear starts, endings, and moral bottom lines fare poorly in the rough waters of the vortex.

Today’s lecture is based on Uekötter’s monograph The Vortex: An Environmental History of the Modern World, recently published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Drawing on examples as diverse as sugar, guano, battery chicken, and DDT, it traces the making of an entangled multidimensional legacy that continues to shape global environmental thinking and action in the new millennium. Living in the vortex is about making choices–and maybe we can make more sustainable choices if we view our current predicament from a new angle.

About the speaker

Frank Uekötter is Professor of Environmental Humanities at Birmingham University, working on environmental issues, both past and present, in a global context.

Gerelateerde programma’s
08 12 23
The Western Liberal Order from Foundation to Fracture
Geopolitics and Democracy

With the launch of the book Geopolitics and Democracy we explore the fortunes and fragility of the international liberal order, where nation-states invest in international openness and multilateralism on the one hand and in military preparedness on the other. The book provides a novel argument and historical evidence explaining why the Western liberal international order emerged and why it is under threat from anti-globalist forces today.

Vrijdag 8 dec 2023 17:00 uur
11 10 23
A Multi-Species Perspective
War Pollution and the Environment

Across the globe, military action and warfare have caused detrimental social, environmental, and multi-species harm. How does war pollution, particularly resulted from explosives and chemical warfare, continue to impact humans, other species, and their ecosystems? How do local and international efforts to address these legacies intersect with our heightened concerns over climate change? Bringing together scholars who research different socio-political contexts, this roundtable is aimed at facilitating a comparative discussion of these questions.

Woensdag 11 okt 2023 17:30 uur
01 02 24
Het pand der goden. De eerste Surinaamse opera

Het pand der goden uit 1906 is een muziekdramatisch werk van de Surinaamse componist Johannes Nicolaas Helstone dat in de vergetelheid raakte. Nu gaat het Concertgebouworkest het stuk 15 februari 2024 voor het eerst sinds 1906 weer opvoeren. Hoe is het mogelijk dat de eerste grote opera uit Suriname zo lang ongelezen en ongehoord in de archieven is blijven liggen? En wat vertelt het verhaal over de Surinaamse muziekcultuur van de late negentiende en vroege twintigste eeuw?

Donderdag 1 feb 2024 17:00 uur