The Co-formation of Human and Natural Communities

Degree Course of the Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts (GSCSA)

Organized by the University of Tartu, Department of Semiotics; Under and Tuglas Literature Center; Jakob von Uexküll Centre; Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts; Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (CECT)

2 ECTS credits

The graduate school in environmental history aims to create a base for meetings and discussions for young scholars working on topics concerning the historical co-formation of cultural and natural environments.
Environmental history is a relatively new interdisciplinary field of research that combines two lines of thought. Firstly, cultural and historical changes are strongly intertwined with natural changes, and historical research has to explain how the two influence each other. Secondly, that our present attitudes and activities in and towards nature have their own historical and cultural roots that should be explored carefully in order to understand existing environmental problems. Environmental history tries to link global environmental discourses with place-sensitive studies by exploring local and regional particularities in the development of the human-nature ties, thereby overcoming nationally fixed approaches in history and culture studies.
Key topics of the graduate school:

– Case studies in Baltic environmental history in its different geopolitical contexts (Baltic Sea region, Russian and Swedish Empire, Baltic states, Baltic provinces, Old-Livonia)
– Cultural and natural exchange between past and present marine and land communities
– Contacts between colonial powers and local environments
– Historical origins and formation of current environmental problems and solutions

Plenary speakers:

Alf Hornborg (University of Lund) Hornborg abstrakt (.doc 26,6Kb)

Bernhard Gissibl (University of Mannheim) Gissibl abstrakt (.doc 26,6Kb)

Gregory Quenet (University of Versailles Saint Quentin) Quenet abstrakt (.doc 27,1Kb)

Diana Mincyte (Yale University) Mincyte abstrakt (.doc 21,0Kb)

Kati Lindström (University of Tartu) Lindström abstrakt (.doc 31,2Kb)

Kalevi Kull (Univeristy of Tartu) Kull abstrakt (.doc 28,2Kb)

Tiina Peil (Tallinn University) Peil abstrakt (.doc 23,6Kb)

Ulrike Plath (Under and Tuglas Literature Center, Tallinn) Plath abstrakt (.doc 37,9Kb)

Muhu, Estonia, 20.-22.05.2011

Friday, 20 May

7.30 Departure from Tartu (Vanemuise lower parking lot)

8.15 Departure from Tallinn (Hotel St. Barbara, Roosikrantsi 2A)

11.25-12.00 Ferry from Virtsu to Kuivastu

12.45-13.15 Arrival + Introduction

13.15-14.15 Lunch

14.15-16.15 Plenary talks

Gregory Quenet What is Environmental History?

Alf Hornborg The Appropriation of Energy and Embodied Land through History: Environmental and Cosmological Consequences

16.15-16.45 Coffee

16.45-17.45 Graduate session

Riin Magnus, Kadri Tüür Establishing Social Relations through Ways and Itineraries: The Case of the Islets surrounding Muhu Island

Maarja Saldre On Representations of Seashore in Estonian Cultural Memory

17.45-18.30 Dinner

18.30-20.30 Plenary talks

Tiina Peil Islands in History and Geography

Kalevi Kull Semiotic Mechanisms of Biodiversity: The Case of Wooded Medow

20.30- SAUNA & BBQ

Saturday, 21 May

08.30-09.00 Breakfast

09.00-11.00 Plenary talks

Diana Mincyte Certifying Heritage: Food, Tradition, and Nature in the Baltic States

Ulrike Plath Changing Local Environments: Perspectives on Baltic Enviromental History

11.00-11.30 Coffee

11.30-13.00 Graduate session

Tanel Rander What do Islands speak about?

Kati Orru The Evolution of Societal Approaches to Environmental Health Risks in the Baltic Countries and Western Europe

Anna-Maria Rautio Plant Use in Sami Societies – an Analysis of Past Land-use in Subarctic Ecosystems

13.00 -14.00 Lunch

14.00-16.00 Plenary talks

Bernhard Gißibl Colonial Environmental History – German Perspectives

Kati Lindström Landscape at Boiling Point – Studying the Environmental History of the East Asian Inland Seas from Prehistory to Future

16.00-16.30 Coffee

16.30-17.30 Graduate session

Krista Karro Landscape of the Western Coast of Lake Peipus in the Iron Age: Environmental and Natural Aspects of the Human Settlement
Eve Rannamäe Animals in Medieval Town. A Zooarchaeological Study of 13th to 16th century Viljandi and its Hinterland

17.30-18.30 Dinner

18.30-20.00 Graduate session

Liisi Jääts Extensive Land-use Methods in Estonia during the 17th-19th Centuries. Bushland as an Economic Resource in Southern Estonia

Ave Paulus Historical Landscapes of Lahemaa National Park

Priit-Kalev Parts Evaluation of Landscape: Nature Morte or Living Landscape?

20.00- SAUNA & BBQ
Sunday, 22 May

09.00-9.30 Breakfast

09.30-10.30 Some final thoughts

10.30-12.00 Trip 1 (Üügu cliff and alvar)

12.00-12.45 Lunch at Tihuse + visit to the wooded meadows

13.00 Departure 1 (for those who have to take planes on the same day or want to be back in Tallinn by 5 p.m.)

13.00-16.30 Trip 2 (Pädaste manor park)

17.00 Departure 2

Organized by Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts; Centre of Excellence in Cultural Theory (CECT); Estonian Naturalists’ Society, Jakob von Uexküll Centre; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC); University of Tartu, Department of Semiotics; Estonian Academy of Sciences, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre (UTKK).

The graduate school program consists of plenary talks, graduate student presentations, discussions, as well as a field trip.
The summer school is planned for 20 participants (8 plenary speakers, 12 graduate students).

All students are asked to give a 20 minute talk on their research topic, which will be followed by a 15-20 minute discussion led by two commentators (one plenary speaker and one graduate student). The texts of the presentations will be available for all participants 2 weeks before the seminar. The plenary lectures will be 45 minutes each and will be supplemented by an online compendium of basic texts in environmental history. After two days of intensive discussions we will go for an environmental historical field trip on Muhu island on the third day.

Interested graduate students should send an abstract (300-600 words) of their talk by the 14th of March 2011 to the following mail addresses:

Ulrike Plath: ul
Riin Magnus: riin.magnu

You will be notified of the acceptance of your contribution by the 15th of February 2011. Participation in the seminar will be free of charge for the confirmed participants (this includes accommodation, food, field trip). The summer school will take place on Muhu island ( in Koguva village in Vanatoa tourist farm (

GSCSA and CECT are financed by the European Union Structural Assistance.