Debates about how to decolonise science have recently taken on a renewed urgency, and are particularly pertinent to the environmental sciences. Processes like climate change and biodiversity loss perpetuate longstanding social inequalities. How we respond to such challenges is intimately tied to how we study and understand them, as decades of social scientific research on science-society relationships has shown. Broader societal conversations about structural inequalities and the legacies of colonial practices draw our attention to how the sciences have been shaped by forms of colonial power, and by colonial habits of thought. As an interdisciplinary field uniquely concerned with the future fates of populations and their environments, the environmental sciences are a key arena in which conversations can be had, and change made. This unique PhD project will make a major contribution to these goals.
The project aims to do three things. Firstly, through carefully selected historical case studies, it will examine the impact of mid-twentieth century processes of decolonisation on the emergence and development of the interdisciplinary field of ‘environmental sciences’. While we know much about how the environmental disciplines were shaped by empire, this project will shed important new light on institutional change and colonial legacies across the era of European imperial retreat. Secondly, the project will map and analyse present-day initiatives to address these legacies and decolonise the field, from efforts to improve diversity and inclusion to radical experiments in institutional transformation. Thirdly, it will work with key stakeholders and practitioners to scope possible pathways to decolonial futures for the field, with the intention of generating a lasting legacy for transformative change.
This project would suit excellent candidates with a strong social science or humanities background, and with some prior knowledge of environmental issues and colonial histories. Knowledge of the history of science or science and technology studies (STS) would be desirable.