15 April 2013

Mistra considers supporting humanities

Environmental humanities are a new and expanding research field. Mistra is now considering a call for funding applications in the area, and has been assisted by an international expert group. In June, Mistra’s Board will take a decision.

Mistra’s application calls have always focused mainly on research in natural sciences and technology. Over the years, a growing share of funding has gone to research in social sciences and policy. The time may now, perhaps, have come for a call that addresses sustainability issues from a viewpoint based on the humanities as well. Mistra’s Johan Edman says:

‘We’ve had the idea of supporting research in green humanities for a couple of years. Now we’ve appointed a working group to look more closely into the scope for a call.’

Growing research field
Environmental humanities are an emerging field. Research teams have been set up at several major universities around the world, says David Nye, Professor of American History at the University of Southern Denmark, chair of Mistra’s expert group that is now analysing the area.

There are leading research groups at, for example, Stanford (, Munich (, Melbourne and Beijing. In Sweden, too, research environments have begun to emerge. KTH Royal Institute of Technology has, for example, recently opened its Environmental Humanities Laboratory.

‘There are eminent academics in the area in Sweden, but systematic support and coordination of their activities are currently lacking,’ Nye points out.

Forthcoming call proposal?
During the spring, the expert group will be continuing its work and submitting its proposals to Mistra’s Board. One proposal will concern the possible nature of an application call. If a call takes place, it is uncertain whether the research will take the form of a traditional programme.  According to Johan Edman, Mistra could also try alternative forms of funding, such as a graduate school or some kind of project funding.

‘That would be in line with Mistra’s statutes — establishing skills with a view to perhaps starting a major research programme later. But how we should proceed is up to the expert group to propose and the Board to decide on,’ Edman says.

Environmental Humanities

The subject is interdisciplinary, addressing environmental problems by means of methods and perspectives from subjects like history, aesthetics and anthropology. The hope, too, is that environmental humanities will yield new dialogues between humanities and natural sciences.

For anyone wishing to learn more about environmental humanities, David Nye recommends the new journal of the same name. Every article in the first issue is available at environmentalhumanities.orgexternal link, opens in new window.

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