Nature's Evil. A Cultural History of Natural Resources

Hosted by the Department of International History

Zoom, United Kingdom


Professor Alexander Etkind

Professor Alexander Etkind

Professor Maxine Berg

Professor Maxine Berg

Dr Katja Castryck-Naumann

Dr Katja Castryck-Naumann

Professor Giorgio Riello

Professor Giorgio Riello


Dr Dina Gusejnova

Dr Dina Gusejnova

Book Discussion

In his forthcoming book, Nature’s Evil. A Cultural History of Natural Resources (Polity, 2021), Alexander Etkind explores the non-human agency of natural resources such as sugar, fur, hemp, oil and others in their relations with the changing character of states. In their interaction with technology and labour, he argues, different natural resources give rise to different social institutions. The book looks at the classical problem of evil from two perspectives, postcolonial and postsocialist.

The discussion of the book and its approach to what Etkind calls a ‘cultural history of natural resources’ was followed by a roundtable conversation. Here, leading experts on global and transnational history shared ideas and practices of researching and teaching environmental history and the history of material culture from a global perspective.

Meet our speakers and chair

Alexander Etkind is Mikhail M. Bakhtin Professor of History of Russia-Europe Relations at the European University Institute at Florence. He has moved to EUI after many years of teaching as Professor at the University of Cambridge, where he also was a fellow of King’s College. Etkind is the author of Internal Colonization: Russia's Imperial Experience (Polity Press 2011); and co-editor of Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe (Palgrave 2013). His most recent book, Nature’s Evil. A Cultural History of Natural Resources, is forthcoming in English with Polity Press. At EUI between 2017 and 2019, he has led the project Resources of Demodernization. Fossil Energy and Human Capital in the Political Economies across Eastern Europe, which centers on human development, natural resources, and their changing interactions in the East European triangle of Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. He teaches, with Giorgio Riello, a course on Global Commodities: From Nature to the World of Things.

Maxine Berg is Professor of History at the University of Warwick (1998-present) and a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society and Academia Europaea. She is the author of Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (OUP, 2005) and editor of Writing the History of the Global: Challenges for the Twenty-first Century (Oxford, 2013). From 2010 to 2014 she was a European Research Council Fellow and served as the Director of the ERC Fellowship project Europe's Asian Centuries: Trading Eurasia 1600-1830. She served as Director of the Global History and Culture Centre from 2007 to 2010, and as Director of the Eighteenth-Century Centre from 1998 to 2007. At Warwick she teaches, among other courses, ‘Treasure Fleets of the Eastern Oceans: China, India and the West 1601-183’, which how European discovery and trade in Asian exotic and luxury commodities transformed the domestic lives of Europe’s elites and ordinary people.

Katja Castryck-Naumann is Senior Researcher at the Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Easter Europe (GWZO) and president of the European Network in Universal and Global History. She is the author of Laboratorien der Weltgeschichtsschreibung: Lehre und Forschung an den Universitäten Chicago, Columbia und Harvard von 1918 bis 1968 [Laboratories for World History Writing: Teaching and Research at the University of Chicago, Columbia and Harvard, 1918-1968] (Göttingen, 2018) and co-editor of In Search of Other Worlds. Essays towards a Cross-Regional History of Area Studies (Leipzig, 2018). At Leipzig she is a member of the Leibniz ScienceCampus “Eastern Europe – Global Area” (EEGA). She teaches global history at Leipzig University and is on the editorial boards of the e-journal 'Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists' and the paper-based journal ‘Comparativ. Journal of Global History and Comparative Studies’. She is currently co-editing a textbook for MA- and PhD-students which places studies of Eastern Europe in a dialogue with global history.

Giorgio Riello is Chair of Early Modern Global History at the European University Institute and Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick. He is the author of A Foot in the Past (OUP 2006), Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World (CUP 2013 – winner of the World History Association Book Prize 2014), Luxury: A Rich History (OUP 2016 - co-authored with Peter McNeil), and Back in Fashion: Western Fashion from the Middle Ages to the Present (Yale UP 2020). He has published on global trade between Europe and Asia, and on material culture and the history of industrialisation. He has recently co-edited Re-inventing the Economic History of industrialisation (2020) and The Right to Dress: Sumptuary in a Global Perspective (2019). He is currently completing a book (with Dagmar Schaefer) entitled 'Cultures of Innovation: Silk in Pre-Modern Eurasia' and he is developing a project entitled ‘European Factories of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1780’ considering the European system of trade of the Indian Ocean.

Dina Gusejnova (PhD in History, University of Cambridge) is Assistant Professor in International History at LSE. Her research interests centre on modern European political, intellectual and cultural history of transitional periods, especially the revolutions of 1918-20 and the two World Wars. She is currently interested in ideas of citizenship and nationality which emerged in the context of forced displacement and internment in the Second World War.

More about this event

The Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day.

Sponsored by the department's Conflict and Identity in Europe since the 18th Century research cluster.

With the support of the Critical European Studies Research Network at the Council for European Studies.


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