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New Earth Histories

Geo-Cosmologies and the Making of the Modern World

With a Foreword by Dipesh Chakrabarty

New Earth Histories

Geo-Cosmologies and the Making of the Modern World

With a Foreword by Dipesh Chakrabarty
A kaleidoscopic rethinking of how we come to know the earth.
This book brings the history of the geosciences and world cosmologies together, exploring many traditions, including Chinese, Pacific, Islamic, South and Southeast Asian conceptions of earth’s origin and makeup. Together the chapters ask: How have different ideas about the sacred, animate, and earthly changed modern environmental sciences? How have different world traditions understood human and geological origins? How does the inclusion of multiple cosmologies change the meaning of the Anthropocene and the global climate crisis? By carefully examining these questions, New Earth Histories sets an ambitious agenda for how we think about the earth.
The chapters consider debates about the age and structure of the earth, how humans and earth systems interact, and how empire has been conceived in multiple traditions. The methods the authors deploy are diverse—from cultural history and visual and material studies to ethnography, geography, and Indigenous studies—and the effect is to highlight how earth knowledge emerged from historically specific situations. New Earth Histories provides both a framework for studying science at a global scale and fascinating examples to educate as well as inspire future work. Essential reading for students and scholars of earth science history, environmental humanities, history of science and religion, and science and empire.

392 pages | 44 halftones, 1 tables | 6 x 9

Earth Sciences: History of Earth Sciences

History: Environmental History

History of Science


New Earth Histories radically resituates the history of earth knowledge in space. Many of the essays center individuals, institutions, and traditions outside of Europe and North America. Just as importantly, other essays ask how a specifically European space mattered for the formation of earth science. The volume also showcases an impressive array of approaches to what constitutes ‘earth sciences.’ Deploying methods from cultural history, visual and material studies, and ethnography, to name only a few examples, New Earth Histories reveals how earth knowledge emerged from historically specific circulations and contestations.”

Daniel Stolz, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This book productively pushes the boundaries of how ‘earth knowledge’ might be conventionally understood, in part by centering other-than-Western forms of expertise but also by emphasizing the interconnectedness of geological and biological realms and knowledge, rather than treating these as separate areas of inquiry. The essays demonstrate in wide-ranging and empirically specific ways how historians and other humanities scholars might approach the intersections of human and geological temporalities.”

Heidi V. Scott, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“The centrality of the ‘Anthopocene’ in recent public discussion of our planetary future has given new prominence to the history of the Earth sciences as a whole. Although scientific understanding of the Earth and its own history—‘geology’ in its traditional sense—developed mainly in the West, its ambitions have always been worldwide. This volume offers an impressive set of historical studies of the amazingly diverse ways in which human beings have sought to understand their terrestrial environment.”

Martin Rudwick, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Contributors
Dipesh Chakrabarty
Introduction: New Earth Histories
Alison Bashford, Emily M. Kern, and Adam Bobbette

Part I New Earthly Cosmologies
1 Of Celestial Gods and Terrestrial Globes in Modern India
Sumathi Ramaswamy
2 Living in an Eggshell: Cosmological Emplacement in Nguyễn Vietnam, 1802–1883
Kathryn Dyt
3 The Mountain’s Many Faces: How Geologists Mistook Chomolungma for Everest
Ruth Gamble
4 Think like a Fish: New Oceanic Histories
Anne Salmond, Dan Hikuroa, and Natalie Robertson

Part II New Geo-Theologies
5 The Voices of an Eloquent Earth: Tracing the Many Directions of Colonial Geo-Theology
Jarrod Hore
6 The Spiritual Geographies of Plate Tectonics: Javanese Islam, Volcanology, and Earth’s New History
Adam Bobbette
7 Geo-Spiritualities of the Flood: Political Geologies of the Great Deluge on the Mountains of Anatolia
Zeynep Oguz

Part III New Elemental Histories
8 “Glass Worke”: Precious Minerals and the Archives of Early Modern Earth Sciences
Claire Conklin Sabel
9 “The Agent of the Most Dire of Calamities”: Ice, Waste, and Frozen Futures
Alexis Rider
10 Hydropolitics for a New Nation: Hydrological Origins and Limits for the Australian Interior
Ruth A. Morgan
11 Earth Time, Ice Time, Species Time: The Emergence of Glacial Chronology
Emily M. Kern
12 Exchanging Fire: A Planetary History of the Explosion
Nigel Clark

Part IV New Geo-Temporalities
13 Holocene Time Perspective
Perrin Selcer
14 “American Blitzkrieg” or “Ecological Indian”? Inequalities in Narrating Environmental Degradation through Deep Time
Melissa Charenko
15 Imperial Melancholy and the Subversion of Ruins in the Amazon
Raphael Uchôa
16 Gondwanaland Fictions: Modern Histories of an Ancient Continent
Alison Bashford

Alison Bashford, Emily M. Kern, and Adam Bobbette

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