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7 March 2014

Promising Green Humanities applications

Intriguing new joint efforts across subject boundaries feature in the programme proposals that have been submitted in the Environmental Humanities application call. Gay Hawkins, one of the international researchers who have been evaluating the applications, thinks Sweden is set to take a leading role in this new research field.

Even if they are supplemented by social sciences, technology and natural sciences cannot possibly meet all the environmental challenges we face. Research in areas like philosophy, history and literature is needed too. This is one of the basic ideas underlying the notion of Environmental Humanities. In autumn 2013 Mistra and the Swedish Research Council Formas jointly issued an Environmental Humanities programme call with the aim of making Sweden a leading nation in the research field often known as ‘Green Humanities’. The funding available amounts to SEK 40 million for four years.

The six programme proposals submitted are currently being reviewed by a panel of researchers from Australia, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States. All the reviewers have their own experience of research in Environmental Humanities.

Australia a groundbreaking nation

One reviewer is Gay Hawkins of Australia’s University of Queensland. Her background is as a researcher in sociology and political philosophy, and in recent years she has also focused on such matters as ethical issues relating to waste.

‘We’ve now gone through all the six proposals sent in. It’s been an exciting job, and we’ve found fantastic applications of a high intellectual standard. It’s been just as interesting to see how completely new research groups have formed to meet the requirements specified by Mistra and Formas.

Getting an Australian researcher to examine the proposals submitted is seen as especially valuable. Australia has long been regarded as the leading nation in ‘green humanities’.

‘We’re definitely out there on the research frontline, but I’m afraid we’ll soon be overtaken by Swedish researchers. Clearly, there’s a growing realisation in this country that technology doesn’t solve every environmental problem and that, if we’re going to be able to meet the challenges that face us, we must consider various other aspects.

Applicants’ degree of commitment impressive

Professor Gay Hawkins is convinced that, in the years ahead, we shall see a range of exciting research findings from Sweden and that they will create an international stir.

At Mistra, too, there is satisfaction with the process to date.

‘We can see that the Swedish universities have become impressively involved. Everyone sending in an application has thought about how to organise the research and what collaboration and groupings are needed to achieve the objectives,’ says Johan Edman, who is in charge of the call at Mistra.

The six proposals submitted come from the University of Gothenburg, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lund University, Stockholm University and Uppsala University. None of the universities specified as the main applicant is acting purely on its own behalf: they have all been obliged to seek beyond their own networks to find the expertise necessary.

The decision on which research group will be given responsibility for the Environmental Humanities programme will be taken in the course of April 2014.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

Facts about Environmental Humanities

Environmental or green humanities are an expanding international research field. At many universities around the world, its relatively broad approach has had a growing impact. Traditional subject limits are being challenged, and issues of the relevance and importance of the humanities have become topical. Increasingly, researchers oriented towards the natural and social sciences are starting to work alongside, for example, literary scholars, historians, ethicists, human geographers, anthropologists and cultural scientists.

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