Stockholm university

Open seminars in Environmental Humanities


Date: Thursday 5 September 2024

Time: 15.00 – 17.00

Location: Accelerator

On September 5, the new Master's Programme in Environmental Humanities and its seminar series will be inaugurated. The inauguration will be open to the public and take place at Stockholm University's exhibition space Accelerator.

The Master's program is the first in Sweden specializing in environmental humanities and part of the university's commitment to the field. The launch of the program on 5 September will begin with a speech by Stefan Helgesson, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Stockholm University.

The seminar series is the heart of the newly launched master's program and brings students together with international- and Stockholm University researchers, while also enabling discussions with an interested public.

Professor Sandra Swart, from Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

Of lions and humans

Keynote at the opening seminar on September 5 will be historian Professor Sandra Swart, from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She will speak on "Becoming a Lion's Historian: More-than-human solutions for living on planet earth", about mutual communication and understanding between lions and humans in the Kalahari Desert.

Open seminars in the autumn

Three more open seminars will be held at Accelerator this autumn.

3/10 at 15-17: Ecoart: Mårten Snickare (in Swedish)
A new book will be presented.

7/11 at 15-17: BioOrdinary: Bengt G. Karlsson
A major research project will be presented.

12/12 at 15-17: Relational Time: Michelle Bastian
Philosopher Michelle Bastian, University of Edinburgh, gives a lecture.

Abstract: "Becoming a Lion's Historian: More-than-human solutions for living on planet earth"

‘If a lion could speak,’ the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, ‘we could not understand him.’ But I contend that lions do ‘speak’ – they communicate in voice and action – and we homo sapiens have long tried to understand them and sometimes succeeded. I would go even further and say that lions have tried to understand us too. In fact, as I will argue, the contact between humans and lions has sometimes shown evidence of mutual comprehension.

Of course, it was a shifting and partial understanding and, as I will show, affected by the changes in human and lion lifeways – so perhaps we can call it co-created. I will show that, at the same time as Wittgenstein used the lion to illustrate the impossibility of such communication, a real lion-human community were speaking to each other and used this conversation to survive in a shared territory in the Kalahari desert. I reconstruct this peculiar pact as a way of thinking afresh about how we tell more-than-human histories. I will tell of two species, both apex predators, who learned to live together in a shared world. This is a new kind of history, based in the Environmental Humanities, that challenges us to take animal cultures seriously

About Sandra Swart

SANDRA SWART is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She received her DPhil in Modern History from Oxford University in 2001, while simultaneously obtaining an MSc (with distinction) in Environmental Change and Management, also at Oxford. She studies the socio-environmental history of southern Africa, with a particular focus on the shifting relationship between humans and animals. She is an editor of the Brill book series African and Asian Anthropocene: Studies in the Environmental Humanities, an editor of the South African Historical Journal and past president of the Southern African Historical Society and current co-Vice President of European Society for Environmental History. It has been her privilege to supervise 21 successful doctoral students from Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

She has authored and co-authored over 80 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in academic books, co-authored two books, co-edited two books and is the sole author of Riding High – Horses, Humans and History in South Africa (Witwatersrand University Press, 2010 and The Lion’s Historian: Africa’s Animal Past(Jacana, 2023). She is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for World Environmental History at Sussex University and a Landhaus Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.