Back to search

SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell

Gardening the Globe: Historicizing the Anthropocene through the production of socio-nature in Scandinavia, 1750-2020

Alternative title: Antropocen tar form: En historisering gjennom produksjon av skandinavisk sosio-natur, 1750-2020

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2021 - 2025


Subject Fields:

Partner countries:

GARDENING THE GLOBE aims to examine historical processes through which nature has been conquered, controlled and commodified in Scandinavia from the mid-18th century to the present. Today's environmental problems are often presented with the help of scientific concepts from Earth Systems science and geology - such as the term Anthropocene. Although such concepts are important for highlighting humanity’s impact on the planet as a whole, they also seem to make factors such as historical conditions, social structures and cultural values invisible. There is therefore a need for a broader understanding of how the practices and technologies that have led to today's environmental problems are historically situated. GARDENING will study these historical processes as a series of increasingly intense attempts to conquer, control and utilize nature - that is, the production of what we call "socio-nature". The project will investigate cases related to three themes: 1) processes of moving animals, plants and minerals; 2) practices of eradicating organisms; and 3) the human production of landscapes. The cases include management of alien species, the use of rotenone in Scandinavian rivers, the concept of "nature's economy", Danish pig farms, Swedish mining landscapes, urban gardening, "the green shift", and man-made geological land formations. GARDENING will provide new historical insight into how practices in Scandinavia have contributed to today's environmental problems. By focusing on Scandinavia, the project explores a fundamental tension between the production of environmental problems and the development of welfare in Scandinavian history and politics. By combining cases from different disciplines, from cultural history to geology, and with both text studies and field studies, the project will also develop methods for bridging qualitative, historical studies and Earth System science.

The concept of the Anthropocene was developed within the Earth system sciences, where human interaction with nature is viewed on a large scale, spatially, temporally, and quantitatively. Such a narrative has no room for describing agency, social structures or cultural values, and thus leaves an epistemological gap between the notion of the Anthropocene in Earth system science and notions of nature-culture entanglements in the humanities. GARDENING aims to develop methods for bridging this gap between qualitative, historical studies and Earth system science. GARDENING argues that this requires a common conceptual ground for the humanities and natural sciences regarding issues related to the Anthropocene, and a broader understanding of how practices and technologies that have led to the Anthropocene are historically situated. The historical development in Northern Europe since the mid- 18th century has played a key role in the processes leading to the Anthropocene, and GARDENING will study these processes as an increasing intensification of attempts to conquer, control and utilize nature - the production of “socio-natures”. Through the concept “socio-natural gardening”, GARDENING will examine the relationship between Western modernity and the emergence of the Anthropocene, exploring three themes: 1) processes of moving animals, plants and minerals; 2) practices of eradicating organisms; and 3) the human production of landscapes. GARDENING will do this through ten case studies located in Scandinavia, which cover a range of socio-natural practices. The case studies inform the three themes directly, but also represent phenomena that, on an aggregated level, are of crucial importance for the emergence of the Anthropocene. They throw light on how such practices in Scandinavia are embedded in trans-local and global networks, as well as how these practices and technologies are historically situated and involve certain ideologies, imaginaries, considerations, and ambiguities.

Funding scheme:

SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell