Workshop – Call for Papers

Shifting Baselines, Altered Horizons: Politics, Practice, and Knowledge in Environmental Science and Policy

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science  (MPIWG), Berlin, Germany – 21-22 June 2018

Convenors: Wilko Graf von Hardenberg (MPIWG, Germany), Thomas Lekan, (University of South Carolina, USA), Sebastián Ureta, (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile)


The creation and mobilization of baselines is at the very center of a wide array of environmental protection and remediation efforts such as wildlife restoration, climate change mitigation, pollution cleanup, or sustainable development. Despite this ubiquitous character, the study of how baselines are produced and mobilized has occupied only a marginal space in the environmental social sciences and humanities so far. This workshop moves the study of baselines to the center of analysis by using the tools of environmental history, science and technology studies, and the environmental humanities to explore the emergence and mobilization of different kinds of environmental baselines in the Anthropocene.

We are interested in analyzing baseline setting as a complex set of practices, mediations, and devices, always populated by a heterogeneous multitude of entities (regulatory agencies, scientific standards, material samples, beliefs and ethical commitments, etc.), and whose ultimate consequences can be rarely predicted from the onset. The workshop aims to understand baseline setting as an uneven process shaped by cultural representation and imagination, radical historicity, connections between power and knowledge, and the distributed agency of a variety of human and non-human actors operating at multiple geographic and temporal scales. By doing so we aim at calling into question the restorationist narratives favored by most current baseline setting processes and explore alternative interpretations of desired environmental futures and emergent ecologies. For a detailed description see the attached CFP and/or the workshop website.

Proposals should consist of an abstract (ca. 300 words) and a brief biographical note on the author/s (ca. 100 words). Please submit proposals to by 30 September 2017 with the subject “Shifting Baselines.” Accepted papers will be notified by 15 October 2017. Papers will be due to the organizers by 15 April 2018 so that they can be circulated well ahead of the conference. Participation in the workshop is free of cost and, up to a generous maximum, travel and accommodation will be covered by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.