CFP: Governing Environmental Change: Science Diplomacy and the Global Politics of Knowledge since the 19th century

November 16-17, 2018, Berlin

Call for papers

Organizers: Nadin Heé (FU Berlin), Mariko Jacoby (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin), Sönke Kunkel (John F. Kennedy-Institute/FU Berlin), Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester)

Venue: Berlin, November 16-17, 2018

Deadline: August 10, 2018

Whether it’s climate change, the conservation and management of natural resources, environmental pollution or the protection of wildlife and the biosphere – states and civil societies around the world today typically rely on scientific knowledge to counter the global environmental challenges of our times. Some governments have officially installed programs in “Science Diplomacy” to be able to cope with environmental change. Science organizations organize the transnational build-up of research capacities in fields such as the environmental sciences. And international organizations and transnational foundations, too, now widely promote international scientific collaboration and cooperation, claiming that such collaborations are essential for building a sustainable world.

However, as much as advocates of science diplomacy brand their efforts as new and unprecedented today, it should not be overlooked that they are in turn part of a longer history of transnational politics of knowledge exchanges and research collaborations that go back as far as the late nineteenth century. There is much research underway now on the various forms that those transnational politics of science have taken since then, and a number of works have already provided us with important insights into the mechanics of science diplomacy especially in the context of big science, nuclear physics, transatlantic relations, and the Cold War. On the other hand, there are only few works so far that go beyond Western Europe and connect the history of science diplomacy to global environmental history. We therefore still lack a deeper and more systematic understanding of the global trajectories of science diplomacy and the ways it responded to, was interrelated with, and shaped global environmental change since the nineteenth century.

Against this background, the goal of our workshop is to explore those interconnections in a global context. Questions we would like to address are: How did ideas on transnational and global environments evolve since the nineteenth century and how did they shape science diplomacy? How did governments, international organizations, and transnational actors promote and organize knowledge transfers and scientific collaborations across borders to address new environmental concerns? What were the motivations, goals, interests, expectations, and concepts behind such policies and how did those change over time?  What agency did individual scientists and experts have in ‘doing science diplomacy’?

In addition, we are also interested in discussing more methodological and theoretical questions:

  • What is and how can we conceptualize science diplomacy?
  • How did different regional and cultural settings shape the course and conduct of science diplomacy?
  • How do non-political forms of international research collaboration relate to science diplomacy?
  • How do knowledge brokers and experts working outside a university setting fit into a history of science diplomacy?

Studying the intersections between science diplomacy and global environmental change, we believe not only opens up a new lens on the entanglements between foreign policy, science, technology, and the international community. It also opens up new perspectives on global environmental history: How did understandings of environmental challenges and problems change over the course of the twentieth century? What new forms and orders of environmental knowledge did scientists, researchers, and experts produce? How did such knowledge circulate globally, and how did it translate into new norms, policies, and practices of ecosystem management? When, where, and how was such knowledge contested?

We therefore invite contributions that address, but must not necessarily be limited to, the following issues:

  • international organizations, nation-states, INGOs, and their global politics of knowledge
  • science diplomacy, sustainability, biodiversity, and climate change
  • environmental change, experts, development policy, and global knowledge transfers
  • the globalizing of scientific disciplines and research fields, for example of oceanography and marine biology, forestry, meteorology, volcanology or seismology
  • resource management
  • natural disasters and disaster preparedness.

The workshop will take place in Berlin. Participants will be reimbursed for travel expenses and accommodation. Please note that we conceive of the workshop to be a ‘publication workshop’ that allows for in-depth discussion of individual papers and will result in a publication either with a well-established university press or a high-ranking journal in the field.

Scholars interested in participating in the workshop are asked to send an abstract (200 to 400 words, in English) and a short curriculum vitae to and

before August 10, 2018.

In order to facilitate scholarly interchange, participants will circulate their papers before the workshop, and will give only very brief oral summaries. Final papers (6000 to 8000 words, fully footnoted) are due November 1 and will be available to workshop participants only.

Inquiries can be made to the conveners via the following e-mail addresses:;

Deadline: August 10, 2018

Posted: July 11, 2018