Frank Uekotter

Nobel Conference 54

Frank Uekotter is Reader in Environmental Humanities at University of Birmingham. The rank of Reader in the UK is a distinguished academic position, bestowed upon a scholar whose research and scholarship have attained international status. Frank Uekötter’s nine monographs, thirteen edited works, and dozens of articles in German and English have earned him worldwide recognition for his contributions to environmental studies from a humanities perspective--a perspective often neglected within the field of environmental studies.

Uekotter’s current project: The Vortex: An Environmental History of the Modern World scheduled to be completed in 2018, examines the complex intersections between humanity and nature, showing how humanity’s relentless efforts to control nature often produce unexpected--and negative--consequences. In The Greenest Nation? A New History of German Environmentalism (MIT, 2014), he extends his analysis to the interplay between civic activists and government policy that made Germany a global environmental leader in the 1980s,. His transnational analysis in The Age of Smoke: Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880-1970, represents an important global contribution to environmental studies too often confined by national borders.

Frank Uekotter has taught at several institutions in Germany and England. His course offerings reflect his global, environmental, and interdisciplinary disposition, as indicated by his course titles: “Which Way Environmentalism?” “The Apocalypse in Green: Environmentalism and Environmental Alarmism in Perspective,” “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Water,” “The History of Technological Risks,” and “The Age of Energy: Global Histories of Hope, Needs, and Carbon.” Such courses help students not only to understand that addressing ecological issues is a complex undertaking, but also to recognize how humans’ hubris about our environmental knowledge and technology can paradoxically harm the environment.

Professor Uekotter’s Nobel Conference Presentation

Uekotter’s work as an environmental historian brings a historian’s perspective to thinking about soil. He asks why soils, though multidimensional by nature, tend to invite “fundamentalism” in the way in which we study and manage them. Uekotter will ask questions about “fundamentalisms” like monocropping of corn, soybeans and cotton, and invite us to consider what these practices say about who we are as humans. How do we develop “soil narratives” that are multidimensional enough to address the needs of all stakeholders, from farmers to landowners to consumers?