Corridor Talk at the 12th Congress of Czech Historians

Corridor Talk team member Pavla Šimková presented a paper at the 12th Congress of Czech Historians that took place from 20-22 September 2022 in Ústí nad Labem. Her talk, entitled “Nature without Borders? History of Transboundary Nature Protection in the Bavarian Forest and Šumava,” was part of a section focusing on environmental discourses in Czech and Slovak historiography.

Conservation Humanities Café at the ESEH 2022 in Bristol

How can the humanities contribute to conservation practice? This was the overarching question that the Corridor Talk team members Jonathan Carruthers-Jones, Pavla Šimková, and Eveline de Smalen probed with the participants of their panel at the European Society of Environmental History (ESEH) conference in Bristol in early July. At the “Conservation Humanities Café,” chaired by Katie Ritson, the team opened with a presentation of the work currently underway at the three study sites in Europe.

Corridor Talk presentation, ESEH Bristol 2022. Photo by Eline Tabak.

In the following café part of the session we broke into three groups, each exploring and assessing the merits, opportunities, and limitations of humanities disciplines in informing and developing sustainable conservation practices in national parks in Europe. One group discussed, among other topics, the potential dangers of using a single landscape or species to symbolize a larger issue, concluding that certain conservation imageries can in fact be counterproductive. Participants also pointed out that even though humanities interventions into conservation debates oftentimes fail to produce an immediate practical effect on the ground, it is still meaningful to keep taking part in the conversation.

The group discussing participatory audio-visual methods highlighted the importance of storytelling in sustainability and conservation. Documenting the stories told by diverse communities, both local and non-local, as they share experiences and perspectives on challenging conservation issues, is a critical first step. Finding ways to then share these stories and the accompanying research insights more widely was considered a key contribution from audio-visual methods to address conservation challenges. Looking forward, ‘gently capturing’ and sharing these stories was also considered critical to both learning lessons from history and building alternative landscape imaginaries going forward.

Corridor Talk group discussion, ESEH Bristol 2022

The final group discussed the challenges for the humanities in bridging the gap between humanities research and conservation practices and policy. Participants suggested that the first key to approaching practitioners and policymakers is a place-based approach with a geographically defined region at its basis on which researchers, practitioners and policymakers can find common ground. The second requirement is long-term research that provides time for researchers to build and maintain networks. In the current academic and funding landscape, this is difficult as much research is done through third-party funding which is often short-term and sometimes very short-term. Especially for early-career researchers, this makes this kind of work next to impossible.

As one of the opening sessions of the conference, covering environmental history as well as a wider set of disciplinary lenses, the café itself was also considered a story worth sharing: two members of the Corridor Talk team, Katie and Jonathan, were interviewed for the ESEH radio blog, which will be online soon!

Bavarian Forest & Šumava Field Trip

Graham Huggan

One of the pick-up pamphlets available at the administration centre for Nationalpark Bayrischer Wald (Bavarian Forest National Park) in Grafenau carries the title ‘Grenzenlose Wald: Wildnis entdecken’ (‘discover the borderless wild forest’). The title is misleading in several respects. Bavarian Forest National Park (BFNP) occupies a large expanse of mixed forest, some of it quite remote and parts of it strictly protected, but it is by no means borderless and, even allowing for discrepant understandings of the never-easy-to-translate German term ‘Wildnis’, it is arguably only selected areas within it that qualify as ‘wild’.

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Literature and the Wadden Sea Teaching Resource Online

After the two workshops on Teaching the Wadden Sea through Literature, Eveline de Smalen has put together a teaching resource on literature and the Wadden Sea. The resource lays out different approaches to bringing the Wadden Sea and its communities, geography and ecology together with knowledge and insights from literature and can be used in creating advanced university courses in Scandinavian, Danish, German or Dutch language and literature or comparative literary studies programmes, and for integrating literature into courses in other disciplines. You can find it at www.waddensealiterature.com.

Corridor Talk Represented at the AHRC-DFG Workshop

George Holmes and Katie Ritson travelled to London in May to represent Corridor Talk at the AHRC-DFG Workshop “Perspectives on UK-German Arts and Humanities Research.” The workshop, which took place over two days, involved over sixty delegates from the two funding organisations and a range of universities across the UK and Germany. Besides giving a short presentation on the project, George and Katie contributed to the focus group on “Narrating” and to conversations on the future of the AHRC-DFG bilateral funding scheme and to UK-German cooperation more generally.

Recommendations from the 15th International Scientific Wadden Sea Symposium

In December, Eveline de Smalen attended the 15th International Scientific Wadden Sea Symposium, where she presented on Teaching the Wadden Sea through Literature, the project she is working on as part of Corridor Talk. At this symposium, panelists in 7 different thematic sessions met after their panel presentations to discuss sets of recommendations for science and management of the Wadden Sea World Heritage in the context of climate change. These recommendations have now been collated in a report, which will serve as input for the Trilateral Governmental Conference on the protection of the Wadden Sea which will be held later this year in Wilhelmshaven. You can find the recommendations from Eveline’s panel on the social aspects of sustainable development in the Wadden Sea below, and you can download the full report here.

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Bernhard Grzimek and the Bavarian Forest National Park

Bavarian Forest: Trees affected by the bark beetle

Another article has been accepted for publication in the context of the ‘Corridor Talk’ project! Graham Huggan’s short piece focuses on the work of the German ‘celebrity conservationist’, Bernhard Grzimek, situating it in the context of historical and contemporary debates about the political and ecological importance of national parks.

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Second Year: Research Roundup

Graham Huggan, February 2022

It has been a year since our last research roundup and longer than that since our opening workshop and AGM, so it seems timely to provide an update now. The global pandemic started at the same time as our project funding, and inevitably it has continued to necessitate changes to our research design and our collaborative work. However, the project has not only managed to keep afloat, but has produced some excellent outcomes, and as project co-leader I am delighted to be able to share some of these with you now.

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New Publication by Pavla Šimková

Pavla Šimková and Astrid M. Eckert have contributed a chapter about the European Green Belt project along the former Iron Curtain to the new handbook “Greening Europe: Environmental Protection in the Long Twentieth Century”. Their contribution highlights the connections between borders and the natural environment on the example of the Šumava and Bavarian Forest national parks.

Workshop Report: Teaching the Wadden Sea through Literature 2

After an exploratory online workshop on “Teaching the Wadden Sea through Literature” in June 2021, Eveline de Smalen organised a follow-up workshop in collaboration with the Waddenacademie on 16 and 17 November 2021. While it was scheduled as an in-person event, the worsening Covid-19 situation in Europe and the Netherlands in particular meant that it had to be moved online at the last minute. Thanks to the good will and flexibility of all participants, the move online went as smoothly as could be hoped for.

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