Check out this quick Q&A with our Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges Series Editors Mart Stewart and Harriet Rivo. Flows, Migrations, and Exchanges publishes works of environmental history that explore the cross-border movements of organisms and materials that have shaped the modern world, as well as the varied human attempts to understand, regulate, and manage these movements.
How do you think the field of environmental history has shifted since FME began? Are there any new developments that you are excited to see or that you’d like to see the series reflect?
Mart: I don’t think the field has shifted so much as expanded. The kinds of works that FME publishes – transnational or global, registering movements and cross-boundary exchanges and influences – has in general increased in number, too. I think the series is already on the edge of what is new in the field, but we hope to publish more works by scholars outside the U.S. and by senior scholars reflecting on the field.
Harriet: The FME list, when we look at all of it at the same time, is already an impressive expression of the best and freshest work out there. In addition to the kind of expansion that Mart has mentioned, it also includes excellent examples of environmental histories that incorporate the perspectives of related disciplines and subdisciplines, including history of science, agricultural history, and historical geography.
What are some of the key moments and/or changes in the field that you think the series has captured or reflected?
Mart: The larger field of “Crosby studies” has shifted in the last twenty years, and the series reflects this. Scholars who early worked out of the field that Alfred Crosby almost single-handedly developed with the publication of Ecological Imperialism in 1989 have mostly focused on what was missing in his study (itself a thoughtful and deeper revision of his earlier work), or on amplifying parts of this book. But those questions have receded far into the background of the study of migrations and exchanges in recent years. Scholars now are simply asking questions that are best answered by looking at the movement of organisms and of ideas about them.
Harriet: Although series includes work that focuses of the flow, migration and exchange of ideas and policies, most of the works it includes exemplify the increasing attention to organic components of environments, whether animal, plant, or microbial. It makes sense to track the history of ideas about organisms and the organisms themselves as both move from place to place, and what changes about both.
Given how not just the field but the world has changed over the past few years, are there any subjects or dynamics you’d like to see more of? Is there anything on your wish list for the series to publish in the future?
Mart: I’d like to see more studies that look at the convergence of the movement of creatures and ideas about them in particular locales, and how these then create something new in those places. Instead of simply following organisms from place to place or across boundaries. These kinds of studies can identify new meanings in the study of small places, and meanings that resonant back out into larger meanings.
Harriet: FME studies give us a new way to think about differences – especially across borders, whether political or other-–to study what changes as a result of such transitions and what does not. The range and quality of our list suggests the variety of future possibilities–I hope that prospective authors will take notice. We’re lucky to have such great partners at UNC Press, who produce books that are distinguished by their looks as well as their content.
Mart Stewart teaches courses in environmental and cultural history at Western Washington University, and is also an affiliate professor in Huxley College of the Environment. He is author of What Nature Suffers to Grow: Life, Labor, and Landscape on the Georgia Coast, 1680-1920 (Georgia, 1996; 2003) and many essays and articles, and co-editor of Environmental Change and Agricultural Sustainability in the Mekong Delta (Springer Scientific, 2011) and Water and Power: Environmental Governance and Strategies for Sustainability in the Lower Mekong Basin (Springer, 2019).
Harriet Ritvo is Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She teaches courses in British history, environmental history, the history of human-animal relations, and the history of natural history. She is the author of The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Modern Environmentalism (Chicago, 2009), The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination (Harvard, 1997), The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Harvard, 1987), and Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History (Virginia, 2010). Her articles and reviews on British cultural history, environmental history, and the history of human-animal relations have appeared in a wide range of periodicals, including The London Review of Books, Science, Daedalus, The American Scholar, Technology Review, and The New York Review of Books, as well as scholarly journals in several fields.