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ASEH Election 2023

Candidate Statements

ASEH Vice President/President-Elect

Jay Turner, Wellesley College

I am a Professor of Environmental Studies at Wellesley College.  Although my training, scholarship, and teaching span environmental history, history of technology, and environmental policy, my scholarly home has always been the American Society for Environmental History.  I have been a member of ASEH since 2003.  I have served on the Rachel Carson prize committee, the Nominating Committee, and for ASEH Boston, the Local Arrangements and Program Committees.    

My publications include The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964 (Washington 2012), which was awarded the Weyerhaeuser Award from the Forest History Society in 2014.  I co-authored The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump (Harvard 2018) with Drew Isenberg.  My most recent book, Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future (Washington 2022), was published last August.  This book reflects my current interests in the ways that history and historians can inform present-day policy issues.  

I have always considered ASEH’s collegiality, interdisciplinary approach to environmental history, and commitment to social justice great strengths of our community.  I look forward to helping ASEH continue to advance priorities, including furthering ASEH’s efforts to welcome and support a diverse array of scholars and scholarship, supporting new initiatives such as Environmental History Week, securing ASEH’s financial stability, and balancing commitments to scholarly community and concerns for environmental sustainability.  It would be an honor to serve ASEH in the coming years.  

ASEH Council:

Eight Candidates, Vote for FOUR

Sara Grossman, Bryn Mawr College

I am an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies on the Johanna Alderfer Harris and William H. Harris Professorship in Environmental Studies at Bryn Mawr College, where I teach courses in environmental history and disability studies. My articles, poems, and essays have been published in The Journal of Women’s History, Environmental Humanities, Disability Studies Quarterly, ISLE, Resilience, Guernica, and elsewhere. My forthcoming book, Immeasurable Weather (Duke University Press), argues that environmental data collection was part of the larger project of settler colonialism in the United States. Data-gathering gave coherence to a national weather project, and to the notion of “nation” itself. Further, my research elaborates settler complicity in assembling and upholding an instrumentalized view of weather with the goal of settler worldbuilding. This included the dispossession of Indigenous lands and waters, genocide, and the building and perpetuation of systems of enslavement and white dominance. In addition to this work, my first book of poems, Let the House of Body Fall, was published by New Issues Poetry & Prose in October 2018.

ASEH has been my disciplinary home since attending my first annual conference in 2015. Although my research combined historical analysis and the creative arts, I was welcomed warmly by the community. I am grateful to have the opportunity to give back to a society that has given me so much, and excited to bring my areas of experience to the Council.

I bring with me an attention to interdisciplinarity, and specifically the ways that U.S. environmental history intersects speculative practices such as creative writing and design. I also bring disability studies, and my experience as a disabled academic, to the table. These areas inform every aspect of my work, from research-based interests in overlapping notions of “normal” environments and bodies to efforts at revamping conference accessibility. Accessibility is more than microphones and printouts (though it is also these things!)––it’s a way of approaching one another, and our work, that values openness from the outset so that anyone can join the conversation, conference, or field trip from the very beginning.

I am excited to bring my expertise to the Council. From 2019-2021, I served on an informal working group committed to addressing issues of accessibility and inclusion at the ASEH annual conference. If elected, I would be eager to continue this work.

Faisal Husain, Pennsylvania State University

I am an assistant professor of history at Penn State University, where I teach courses on global environmental history, the Ottoman Empire, and the Silk Road. My articles have appeared in journals such as Environmental History and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. My first book, Rivers of the Sultan: The Tigris and Euphrates in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford University Press, 2021), examined the role of the Tigris and Euphrates in the establishment of Ottoman state institutions in the eastern frontier between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. My current book project is an environmental history of Ottoman frontier expansion east of the Euphrates during the sixteenth century. I serve on the editorial board of Global Environment, an environmental history journal based in Italy. Outside of academia, I am an inept birder and member of the State College Bird Club.

I owe much of my career to ASEH. Since 2014 in San Francisco, ASEH has given me a platform to share my work and grow as a scholar. Above all, ASEH has given me the gift of community—brilliant, welcoming, and warmhearted. In its annual meetings, I learned from the most talented scholars and made my best friends. Service is the least I can give ASEH in return. That is why I feel honored and privileged to stand for election to the ASEH Council.

To the ASEH Council, I hope to bring an international experience and perspective. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with students and scholars of environmental history across the world. In June 2022, for instance, I co-organized a two-week environmental history summer school in Istanbul for Turkish college students, featuring lectures by eminent Turkish and North American historians. Moreover, in late 2022, I spent one of my most wonderful falls in Bavaria as a Landhaus fellow at the Rachel Carson Center. As a member of the ASEH Council, I would love to tap into these and other international experiences to ensure that ASEH remains a welcoming home to all research on human interactions with the rest of nature over time, in North America and around the world.

Melanie A. Kiechle, Virginia Tech

I am a historian of the nineteenth-century United States with interests in cities, built environment, health, science, and the senses. My first book, Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America, recounts the myriad choices Americans made about urban environments when they thought that “bad airs” spread illness. That research has been depressingly relevant since 2020 and informs my approach to all indoor activities as we continue to live in a pandemic caused by an airborne virus. 

At Virginia Tech, I regularly teach courses on US history, environmental history, and the history of science and of medicine. Starting in fall 2023, I will be the director of our small but funded history MA program. I have previously served on my department’s executive, undergraduate, graduate, and research committees, and I act as a departmental mentor to four pre-tenure colleagues. I also am active in building collaborations for research and teaching across disciplinary lines.

I have considered the ASEH my primary scholarly home since I first attended the annual meeting in grad school, and I continue to prioritize this meeting above those of my other professional associations—it’s the one I hate to miss! Formally, I have contributed to ASEH as a mentor for early career scholars, as one of WEHN’s “Twitter Mavens,” and as a member of the Website (Digital Communications) Committee. Beyond ASEH, I am a member of the program committee for the upcoming World Congress of Environmental History and wrapping up my term as an editor of the H-Environment Roundtables. Through these activities, I work to create and strengthen networks within our organization, to amplify voices and perspectives of those newer to the field, and to promote environmental history to audiences beyond our core membership. As a member of the ASEH Council, I look forward to continuing these efforts as we grapple with the profession-wide issues of employment, increasing diversity and equity, ensuring access to conferences, archives, and publications, protecting academic freedom, and promoting environmental history as a necessary component for meeting the challenges of a changing climate. Thank you for considering me.

Ramya Swayamprakash, Grand Valley State University

ASEH has been one of my primary intellectual and scholarly communities since I was an independent scholar (and later a graduate student) when I attended my first meeting in Toronto in 2013. As an early career scholar, I very much look forward to the opportunity to serve on the ASEH council and contribute to the ongoing efforts to knowledge dissemination, outreach, and diversify membership. I have previously served as the President of the ASEH Graduate Caucus. 

I am an Assistant Professor of Digital, Environmental, and Integrative Studies at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. My current research explores the techno-social and environmental impacts of the knowledge-transfers between hydraulic engineers in India, Canada, and the United States from 1890-1960. I am currently finishing my manuscript on the Detroit River where I examine how, why, and where dredging created islands in the river as well as their socio-environmental impacts from 1870 to 1970. I have authored academic and public publications on dams, engineers, dredging in the Great Lakes as well as India in journals such as Water HistoryMichigan Historical Review, and platforms such the Environmental History Now and Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). 

I serve scholarly associations and organizations in various capacities. Currently, I co-host the podcast of the Midwestern History Association. I am on the Executive Council and editorial board of the and Network in Canadian History and Environment. I am also an Assistant Content Editor as well as editor of the Tools for Change series. I serve as a member-at-large on the H-Net Council in addition to serving as a network editor at H-Borderlands. I am also a co-convener for Envirotech at the Society for the History of Technology. 

Diana Valencia-Duarte. University of Bristol

I have a Doctorate in History from the University of Exeter, for which my thesis explored indigenous peasant communities perspectives on the agrarian question in Colombia and its impact on their territories between 1961 and 2013. I used environmental history with a decolonial approach to understand the effects of agrarian policies on the rural landscape, food sovereignty and the peasant culture in three highly dissimilar regions of the country. In my work I also use gender, race and class lenses to understand the oppression from colonial and neo-colonial structures of power exercised over these peasant communities, through imposed agrarian policies, which depeasantisied territories with negative environmental impacts.

This work led me towards being part of the Environmental History Now (EHN) community - first as contributor (2019), then as content editor (2020-21), and now as assistant executive editor. EHN is an independent, volunteer-run, award-winning community, a platform to showcase the environment-related work and expertise of graduate students and early career scholars who identify as women, trans and/or nonbinary people. As such I have dialogued with care and admiration with various authors on pieces of high quality research related to communities and socio-ecosystemic bondages, and remain mind-blown by these outstanding productions by such brilliant minds.

Many of us come from non-English speaking countries, and writing and peer review processes are tough and require considerable effort. As a non-native I believe that the language should not be a barrier for these incredibly creative and smart colleagues’ ability to be part of the academic debate. In EHN we not only establish highly interesting dialogues with contributors, we assist on the process of refining the writing to facilitate their work. Even more, we strongly believe that communication in different languages privileging the message over the code is key. Therefore, EHN is now making great efforts to be a multilingual platform, a goal that we are slowly achieving.

Currently I am working as a postdoc researcher with the University of Bristol. As such I am a research assistant in a closing project which consisted of facilitating the creative memory works of indigenous, black, rural women and Caribbean communities who have been victims of armed violence in Colombia. This connects to my previous work around current efforts of peace building and reconciliation of peoples with their neighbours, their victimisers and their territories, and rebuilding bonds which re-start the social metabolism of their local settlements.

For the near future I am also planning two teaching modules which I aim to be conducting next year: ‘Environmental History of the Neotropics in the Capitalocene’ and ‘An Interdisciplinary and Decolonial History’ for first and second year students respectively. My paper ‘We Are All Peasants by Nature: Historical Dynamics of the Peasant Question in Colombia, 1961 – 2021’ is at revision stage and my monography is also on the way. And finally, I hope to be able to contribute to the ASEH community as well to the best of my knowledge and abilities.

Jessica Varner, the University of Southern California

I am a current fellow at the University of Southern California, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, completing my first book, Chemical Desires: When Modern Architecture met the Chemical Industry (1870-1970), forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press. I teach urban environmental history, STS courses, design history, and global material culture history. I have published articles, book chapters, and have ongoing projects on chromium, drywall, regulatory accountability, toxicity, chemical modernity in building materials, the EPA's public history (APE, www.apeoplesepa.org), NSF/STS co-PI on Cumulative Exposures, a forthcoming co-edited thematic series on environmental data and justice with STHV, and a co-edited volume on Climate Changed: Models for the Future forthcoming with the Columbia University Press. 

I am also a steering committee member of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), an interdisciplinary academic collaborative fighting for transparency in environmental data. With EDGI, I am a part of the Environmental Historians Action Collaborative (EHAC), which came out of a meeting at ASEH in 2018. We work on policy recommendations, publish op-eds, issue public comments on environmental tools, and propose EPA rule changes. I also advocate with Coming Clean, a non-profit environmental health collaborative working to transform the chemical industry away from harmful practices. 

I attended my first ASEH as a graduate student and have participated in three ASEH conferences/Earth Days over the past several years. Also, I have led major conferences and symposia at MIT, the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), EAHN (Madrid), and served on SAH's executive committee for the last five years. The ASEH is my scholarly second home, its community enriches my thinking daily, and as an emerging scholar, I offer a voice which has advocated as the humanities has shifted and the environmental crisis has increased. I look forward to the opportunity to give back by diversifying, strengthening,  contributing to the field of environmental history, and pushing more significant climate-related initiatives in the society. I would work to amplify the voices of emerging scholars in the field, support better mentoring practices, organize policy efforts, connect the field of environmental history to community-based groups and activist/organizing efforts, increase the ASEH's public engagement, and foreground diverse teaching methods to meet the moment of climate and environmental change. In addition, I was once an outdoor leader and wilderness guide, so I look forward to helping continue the field trip tradition into new nooks and outdoor crannies.

Chris Wells, Macalester College

Ever since I scraped together enough pennies as a graduate student to attend my first conference in Providence, the ASEH has been my professional and intellectual home. I’ve served the society as a member of a local arrangements committee (St. Paul), a program committee (Chicago), the Samuel Hays Fellowship committee, the ad hoc committee on the WEHN report on gender, and the membership committee. I’m honored to be considered for ASEH council. If elected, I would support the society’s ongoing work, taking special interest in thinking about environmental history in the classroom and addressing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

In my day job I’m professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where, as the lone humanist in an interdisciplinary department, I get to teach widely across the field of environmental history. My research focuses on the ways that big technological and socioeconomic systems have shaped the American environment, with a special interest in how they structure and mediate people’s relationships with the natural world. My books include Car Country (2012), which focuses on the proliferation of car-dependent landscapes in the U.S. before 1956; Environmental Justice in Postwar America (2018), which documents the rise and evolution of the environmental justice movement, including its frequently uneasy relationship with “mainstream” environmentalism; and Nature’s Crossroads: The Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota (co-edited with George Vrtis),  just out with University of Pittsburgh Press.

Genie Yoo, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

I am a historian of Southeast Asia, working at the intersection of history of science and medicine, ecology and empire, and religious studies. My work focuses on the history of cross-cultural interactions on one of the most important spice islands in Indonesia, called Ambon. Using European and indigenous sources, my dissertation traced how imperial and indigenous understandings of nature—in relation to forests and fields of cultivation, colonial botany, medicinal recipes, and Islamic practices—depended on multi-scalar networks between islands and regions. Moreover, it showed how European and indigenous understandings of nature influenced each other under Dutch imperialism and changed across shifting boundaries of science, medicine, and religion from early modern to modern times. 

As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, I am currently expanding this work to explore how inter-lingual translations in indigenous manuscripts can help us to answer broader historical questions about the formation of vernacular knowledge, particularly in relation to medicine, environment, gender, and animal bodies, both human and non-human, mortal and divine. Having recently moved to Jerusalem to carry out this work, I have become more attuned to the complex layers of cross-cultural and inter-religious interactions in everyday life; the power, pressure, and politics of translation and communication; and the importance of understanding ecological and non-ecological infrastructures in contested spaces. My experiences here, albeit brief, have shed new light on the role of historical narratives, the relationship between environment and politics, and the urgency of connecting the past and present with potential futures.

I have been a content editor for Environmental History Now (EHN), a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative platform that highlights the importance of community and belonging in the field of environmental history and in environmental humanities more generally. My experiences with EHN have been incredibly enriching and it has highlighted the vital importance of providing a supportive space for all voices. I have never been a part of a professional committee before, especially of this scale—so I am honored just to be nominated as one of the representatives of EHN’s community. I am eager to serve and excited to learn from the ASEH Council and from the wider community of scholars, activists, and participants in ASEH.

ASEH Nominating Committee:

Four Candidates, Vote for TWO

Jennifer Bonnell, York University

The ASEH has been a source of intellectual inspiration and scholarly community since I attended my first meeting as a graduate student in 2009 (Tallahassee, Florida). A member of the flank of Canadians who regularly attend ASEH conferences, I have found the increasingly international mix of scholars to be a welcoming and inspiring environment within which to make new friendships, nurture collaborative projects, and gain new insights. The work of the Women’s Environmental History Network in recent years has been especially successful in building connections between women scholars from different geographies, backgrounds, and career stages. As a beneficiary of these initiatives for over a decade now, I welcome the opportunity to give back by standing for election to the ASEH nominating committee.

I am an Associate Professor of Canadian and environmental history at York University in Toronto, where I also coordinate the university’s interdisciplinary Public History program. My work examines questions of environmental change and collective memory in Canada and the transnational Great Lakes Region. I’m the author or co-editor of four books: Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto’s Don River Valley (UTP, 2014); Historical GIS Research in Canada (UCP, 2014); Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History (UCP, 2022); and Stewards of Splendour: A History of Wildlife and People in British Columbia (forthcoming fall 2023). My current book project, Foragers of a Modern Countryside: Honey Bees, Environmental Change, and Beekeeper Advocacy in the Great Lakes Region, will be published by the University of Washington Press’s Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series in 2024.

In addition to my participation in annual meetings, I have contributed to ASEH in other ways, publishing in Environmental History, leading a field trip of Toronto’s Don River Valley at the 2013 annual meeting in Toronto, and serving on the locations committee that assessed proposals for the Ottawa, Eugene, and Boston conferences. I have also played an active role in the development of the community of environmental history scholars in Canada, serving as an executive member of the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) from 2014 to 2019 and co-editor of NiCHE’s online journal Papers in Canadian History and Environment since 2016. If elected, I would draw from my experience with NiCHE and other scholarly networks, as well as my public history connections, to recruit a diverse and capable leadership from a range of career stages and from positions within and beyond academia.

Amy Hay, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

I am a professor of history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. My research focuses on public health activism, specifically the mobilization of various groups of citizens protesting environmental pollution and its effects on human and environmental health. I have published on women’s activism at the Love Canal chemical disaster and my book, The Defoliation of America (2022), examines the ways various groups – religious, grassroots, veterans – challenged the official narrative ofmusing the phenoxy herbicides safely in South Vietnam and throughout the US West. I had the good fortune to serve as a Rachel Carson Fellow in 2012.

I attended my first ASEH in Providence, Rhode Island at the 2003 meeting, and it became one of the routine conferences that I presented at and attended. It became an intellectual home as I attended sessions that related to my own research on the phenoxy herbicides, their uses, and the protests various groups made against them. Other sessions provided important methodological and theoretical perspectives. Attending meetings allowed me to develop a vibrant network of scholars whose work was relevant to my own, and to join a community of individuals (friends) who shared their research, support, and company with me.

I have always appreciated the ASEH’s commitment to mentoring, collegiality, and responsiveness to bettering the organization. It is in this last capacity that I see service on the Nominating Committee as having an important impact on these efforts. Along with my desire to serve, I see my research area (Environment & Health), institutional home (one of the largest HSI-institutions in the country), and experiences within organizations (ASEH, ESEH, and Rachel Carson fellow) as giving me important insights that allow me to contribute to the ongoing efforts to improve the ASEH. Little did I realize how important that 2003 meeting would be, and I am both pleased and honored to be nominated to serve on the Nominating Committee.

Michelle Mart, Penn State Berks

I am an associate professor of history at the Berks campus of Penn State University, outside of Reading, PA. I am a cultural historian who came relatively late to environmental history, having begun my career by studying the intersections of American foreign policy and culture (Eye on Israel: How America Came to View Israel as an Ally). I was inspired by my first ASEH conference in Houston in 2005 when I presented early research for my book, Pesticides, A Love Story: America’s Enduring Embrace of Dangerous Chemicals. I am just finishing another book project looking at the intersections of environment, culture, and food.

Over the years, ASEH’s members have inspired my choice of diverse topics and intellectual explorations. ASEH is unique in its cross section of scholars and members, from different regions, different sub- disciplines, and different intellectual traditions. My goal on the Nominating Committee would be to build upon this institutional character, and encourage even greater diversity among ASEH leaders by reaching out to many members whose voices have not yet been heard.

I have served the ASEH on the Alice Hamilton Prize Committee, the Sustainability Committee, and the Ad-Hoc Committee on On-line and In-person Meetings. I am happy to have been asked to stand for election to the Nominating Committee and would welcome the opportunity to serve an organization which I so greatly respect.

Daniella McCahey, Texas Tech University

I am an assistant professor at Texas Tech University where I teach classes on the British Empire and the history of science. My research, which I have published in a variety of public and academic venues, addresses the history of Antarctica. I first attended ASEH in 2016 as a graduate student who had yet to conduct any archival research. Since then, it has become my favorite conference; one which I have attended more frequently than any other. I found myself welcomed and encouraged by even the most senior scholars, particularly in the Envirotech and the Earth and Environmental Sciences subgroups. What attracts me most to ASEH is the sheer variety of geographical, temporary, and methodological approaches that count as environmental history. It has taught me that to be perfectly honest, all history is environmental at its core. All people need to eat, interact with the landscapes where they live and work, and deal with the weather, no matter what. It is this attitude that I seek to impress on my students. The connections, intellectual stimulation, and the comradery of the historians at ASEH pushed me to volunteer as the book review editor for H-Environment, a role that I have filled since mid-2019. As a member of the nominating committee, I will do my best to recognize the diversity and the excellence of our discipline. 

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