CFP for panel "Empire revisited: agricultural surveys and the making of colonial landscapes", Old and New Worlds: the Global Challenges of Rural History International Conference, Lisbon, 27-30 January 2016

Empire revisited: agricultural surveys and the making of colonial landscapes

Organizers: Cláudia Castelo, CIUHC, University of Lisbon; Maria do Mar Gago, ICS, University of Lisbon; Marta Macedo, CIUHCT, University of Lisbon

To propose a paper for this panel, contact
Deadline for submissions, 31 March 2015

This panel intends to bring together themes and approaches from the history of science, the history of imperialism and the rural history. Our goal is to discuss a central practice of modern European empires, which is directly connected to scientific expertise: the agricultural surveys. The reports produced by scientists working in these surveys are outstanding sources for colonial history. They provide us new insights into aspects of environmental (natural resources, climate, vegetation) and indigenous (traditional agricultural practices, land uses, African cultivators livelihoods, etc.) localities. At the same time, they are also outstanding sources for the construction of wider narratives about modern imperial formations as the scientists responsible are often concerned with the comparison between agricultural realities in different empires. In this panel we want to discuss the role of scientists involved in these missions, not from the point of view of their area of expertise, but according to the nature of their practices. From this point of view, the scientists recruited – botanists, agronomists, geologists, anthropologists, economists – were all ‘naturalists’ as they relied on the traditional practices of natural history: collecting, classifying, naming, describing. What are the advantages of thinking and discussing the role of these scientists from this perspective? This panel wants to respond to this challenge.