Uses of Environmental History: Sandra Swart

Seeing the Woods

This is the final post in the uses of environmental history series. The series has been adapted from contributions to a roundtable forum published in the first issue of the new Journal for Ecological History, edited by Renmin University’s Center for Ecological History.


“Feral Historians?”

By Sandra Swart

The greatest strength we have as historians—our secret superpower—is the ability to take an apparently immutable existing status quo and show that “it was not always so.” We can look at the present and expose the seemingly “natural order” for just how “unnatural” (how anthropogenically constructed) it really is. For example, gender historians have exploded the static, apparently unchanging, and ostensibly biological dualism between men and women—thereby opening up new ways of understanding the social order. After all, a key value of learning about the past is to defamiliarize the present. To simply know that “it was not always so” is amazingly potent. It…

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Monsters

Your grief will never go away. A moment: an hour, a week, a month, a year, a decade. Time passes. You think it gets better. You climb up mountains full of knives and stacked with ghosts, and you think, there I’ve made it. You think you’ve conquered the grief, wrestled the demon and broken its […]

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What is a Singaporean?

Do Singaporeans have belly-buttons? Not so long ago, there used to be a theorist of the nation, and his name was Ernest Gellner. He is said to have famously and provocatively asked the same question about nations: do nations have belly-buttons? By which he meant: do nations have a single, traceable origin? Are nations born? Where […]

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Southbread I: Bali Breakout

First days are the worst. It is May 2017, and I have just landed in Denpasar, Bali after an early morning flight from Changi Airport. Because I was too much of a cheapskate to pay for an exorbitant early morning taxi all the way  to the airport, I had spent the night (quite snugly) being […]

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