Call for Papers: Environmental History of the Modern Mediterranean

I am co-organizing a workshop on the environmental history of the modern Mediterranean, which will be held at Sciences Po Paris – Campus of Menton, on October 18-20, 2018. DEADLINE for proposal April 20, 2018.

Please find the complete CfP below:

Effervescent sea © Lisa Murray (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Below the Surface:
A New Wave of Interdisciplinary Mediterranean Studies
and Environmental Changes

Workshop, 18-20 October 2018
Sciences Po – Menton Campus
1 Place Saint-Julien, 06500 Menton, France

Convenors : Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po Paris), Davide Orsini (Mississippi State University), Ibrahim Boubekri (LabexMed, Aix-Marseille Université).

“Below the Surface: A New Wave of Interdisciplinary Mediterranean Studies and Environmental Changes” is an international research initiative aiming at creating an interdisciplinary dialogue on the environmental history of the Modern Mediterranean with a focus on its coastal and marine ecosystems. This first workshop wants to explore future research directions and new collaborative efforts across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. We invite therefore contributions that explore historical, socio-technical, and socio-ecological interactions in the Mediterranean coasts and sea in the urban-industrial era (19th-21st Century).

The Mediterranean Sea has experienced massive transformations over the last two centuries. Substantive demographic growth and urbanization along its coasts, alarming increase of marine pollution, loss of habitats, and the increasingly visible effects of climate change are putting at strain the environmental conditions of the middle Sea. Despite the increasing attention paid to the environmental transformations of the Mediterranean basin and their deep linkages with the social, economic, and political life of the people around the sea, these dimensions remain little explored in modern environmental histories.

Since the 1950s social and cultural anthropologists have sought to find the common denominator of a “Mediterranean identity” in the persistence of traditional cultural forms, particularly moral codes, such as “familism,” “honor,” and “shame.” In the early 1980s, however, the underlying assumptions of these scholars have been sharply criticized, up to the point of denying the very possibility of using the “Mediterranean” as a unit of analysis for understanding the “unity-in-diversity” of societies across the Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, Mediterranean histories that have taken into account the environment, from the classic work of Fernand Braudel (1949) to the more recent analysis of Horden and Purcell (2000), have stopped at the threshold of urban-industrial modernity. The few contributions that have addressed the large scale environmental changes linked to urban-industrial development have done so either by devoting little attention to coastal and marine ecosystems (McNeill 1992) or within the framework of wide diachronic perspectives (Hughes 2005), which offer only a broad-brush synthesis of complex and differentiated processes.

We believe it is time to go back to the Mediterranean environment and shed light on the interlocked ecological and social processes that have reshaped it in the urban-industrial era, from the nineteenth century to the present. To be effective, this analysis must consider the ecological and geomorphological interdependencies that connect the Mediterranean coastal and marine environments in conjunction with other political, social, and cultural dimensions. A long-term perspective sensitive to cultural and social dimensions can help us understand the trajectories and drivers of the environmental challenges of the present.

To avoid any essentialist assumption on the region’s unity, we think it is necessary to start from an empirical perspective based on multi-scalar, regional analyses. This workshop aims to start a conversation across Mediterranean regions, emphasizing the importance of their cultural, historical, and economic specificities. We welcome contributions from a variety of disciplines, including history, anthropology, oceanography, marine biology, environmental studies, and environmental humanities. We especially welcome proposals from research institutions located in underrepresented areas of the Mediterranean, including the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkan region. Topics may include:

● Coastal life and urbanization
● Maritime cultures and labor
● Coastal ecosystems
● Oceanography and environmental monitoring
● Marine biology and ecosystems
● History of maritime stations (history of marine biology)
● Industrialization and anthropogenic pollution
● Climate change
● Toxic dumping and littering
● Environmental preservation and maritime parks
● International cooperation in environmental preservation programs
● Sustainable tourism and ecotourism
● Military bases and industrial districts

Sponsored by the USPC Chair in Environmental History of the Center for History at Sciences Po, the Strategic Research Initiative of the Mississippi State University, and the LabexMed of Aix-Marseille Université, the international workshop will take place on October 18-20, 2018 at the Menton Campus of Science Po Paris. Your proposal should consist of an abstract (ca. 300 words) and a brief biographical note (ca. 150 words). Draft papers (preferably in English) will be pre-circulated to maximize the discussion time during the workshop.
Travel and accommodation costs for participants will be covered by the organizers.

Please submit proposals to by April 20, 2018.



Documentary on the 1968 Belice Valley Earthquake

I recently contributed as guest historian to a documentary on the 1968 Belice Valley earthquake, one of the two earthquakes I investigated in my book Fault Lines. The documentary was produced by RAI Storia, the history channel of RAI, the Italian public TV, written by Matteo Berdini and Fabrizio Marini, and directed by Matteo Berdini. After airing on TV on January 12, 2018, the documentary has been released online and can be viewed on the RAI streaming website at this link (registration is compulsory but free).

New Article on Po Valley Published

The journal Environment & History has just published my first peer-reviewed article about the history of the Po watershed. Titled “Charting the Flow: Water Science and State Hydrography in the Po Watershed, 1872-1917”, it follows the complex establishment of a hydrographic service for the largest watershed of the country from the disastrous 1872 floods to the First World War. It touches upon issues such as quantification and measurement of water resources, the role of natural systems in environmental knowledge production, the nexuses between water knowledge and engineering, and the role of environmental knowledge in State-building.

Here is  a link to the published version of the article:

Do not hesitate to email me for a copy!

New Project Website (and Digital Maps)

I have finally published a pilote version of my hGIS online on a dedicated website, which I presented at the last ASEH meeting in Seattle earlier this month. This website presents some of the data I have produced during the research in the form of interactive maps. The maps are grouped in sections: agriculture, energy, and urbanization. An additional section provides information on sources and credits for this project. Here is the link to the website, and below one of the digital maps you can explore via this website:




Updates on the Po Watershed Project

A few good things happened in the last few weeks concerning my project “Entangled Flows.”

I was invited to gave a talk on “Charting the Flow: Water Science and State Hydrography in the Po Watershed” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, on February 11 and 12. The talk was part of the Speakers’ Series ” The Art of Judgement” organized by Wilko von Hardenberg at the Department III of the Institute. It was a fantastic opportunity to discuss my work with great scholars in the history of science and I will incorporate their excellent insights into my project.

I published a short piece on the project as a whole in Italian for the online journal Altronovecento. I lettori italiani potranno farsi un’idea più precisa del progetto attraverso queste brevi note di ricerca. Il testo può essere visionato online sul sito della rivista oppure scaricato qui

Hopefully more good news will follow in the coming months…


Talk in Vienna about “Fault Lines”

On January 21 at 18:00, I will give a talk at the Minisymposia organized by the ZUG – Centre for Environmental History in Vienna, Austria. The talk is titled “Fault Lines: Thinking (and Writing) about Earthquakes and Historical Change” and will present my recently published book Fault Lines.  This is the abstract of the talk:

Can earthquakes speak? The idea that “nature” actively participates in historical change is probably the most fundamental tenet of environmental history. Earthquakes seem a clear example of that agency, and especially so in the history of urbanism and the built environment. Yet, several problems confront us when trying to define the way this agency operates.  We can hardly blame exclusively the geophysical trigger for the destruction of built environments, ignoring human responsibilities. The transformation that may or may not follow the seismic event, moreover, cannot be easily connected to the earthquake itself, as it may depend on different agendas and processes.

Therefore, to understand if and how earthquakes play a role in urban historical change, one needs to devise specific analytical and narrative strategies. It is indeed necessary to follow the multiple threads that converge into the seismic disaster only to diverge right after it, and to articulate the historical analysis across multiple temporal scales. In particular, it is crucial to fully incorporate into the analysis not only the disaster and the reconstruction, but also the transformations that were going on before, to distinguish long-term continuities from ruptures that can therefore more convincingly be attributed to the effects of the geophysical trigger.

In my book Fault Lines (Berghahn 2015) I have applied these questions and methods to the empirical investigation of two of the most tragic and destructive seismic disasters in the history of modern Italy: the 1908 Messina and the 1968 Belice Valley (Sicily) earthquakes. In both cases, two brand new environments rose from the ruins of the earthquakes. By looking at the history of these two places on the longer term, we can recognize how much of their transformation was prepared before the earthquakes, and was part of larger urbanization processes in modern Italy. From this perspective, however, we can also see how much of it was the result of the multiple and sometimes counterintuitive interaction of geophysical forces with material structures and human expectations and actions, thus giving voice to the earthquake in more-than-human histories of urban change.,10967,Kopie+72.+Minisymposium+am+21.1.2016.html

New Article on the Po River Valley

As part of the Po Valley project, I have been working for a while on the hybrid process of knowledge production about water. A forthcoming paper of mine on water science and state hydrography in the Po River basin is now available online through the advance access option of the journal Environment and History and via my page. I am particularly happy about this article, because it is the first peer-reviewed output of this project. It is also my first incursion in the history of science (and technology) and I will have the chance to present it at the Max-Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin this coming winter. One more reason to be excited about it!

Giacomo Parrinello, “Charting the Flow: Water Science and State Hydrography in the Po Watershed, 1872-1917”. Fortcoming in Environment and History.