The Nelson Institute's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) draws together faculty, staff, graduate students, and others from a wide array of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to investigate environmental and cultural change in the full sweep of human history.


Latest News

Announcing the Edge Effects Podcast

CHE’s digital magazine, Edge Effects, has launched a podcast series of interviews with scholars, scientists, and artists who engage with questions of environmental and cultural change. Enjoy wide-ranging conversations with Carolyn Finney (Black Faces, White Spaces) and Lauret Savoy (Trace). Learn about the path-breaking research of CHE alumni Dawn Biehler (Pests in the City) and Andrew Stuhl (Unfreezing the Arctic).  Several more exciting episodes are forthcoming in 2017, including William Cronon's reflection on the 25th anniversary of his book Nature’s Metropolis; Adam Mandelman will talk law and politics in the Anthropocene with Jedediah Purdy (After Nature); and Edge Effects editor Helen Bullard will host a conversation with glass artist Anna Lehner about her current work exploring endangered languages.

Get the podcast sent straight to your mobile device or computer by subscribing through the iTunes store. You can also find episodes on Google Play, Stitcher, and TuneIn, or stream or download directly on the Edge Effects website.


Finding the Words: Erstwhile Blog editor Julia Frankenbach reflects on the CHE Symposium weekend

CU-Boulder graduate student and Erstwhile blog editor Julia Frankenbach was one of the many attendees at the March 4-6, 2016 CHE Graduate Symposium "E is for Environment: New Vocabularies for the Past, Present, and Future." In addition to describing the rich set of topics discussed at weekend paper workshops, panel presentations, and keynote from Dr. Kate Brown of University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Frankenbach remarks that the weekend was "a humbling place to be, think, and rejuvenate." But what new questions can one think on when, as Frankenbach aptly observes, environment's "capaciousness" as a term tends towards abstraction? Read more of her reflections and takeaways from the weekend in the article she has authored for Erstwhile.


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Upcoming Events

Jonathan Schlesinger on "An Inside-Out View of Qing Environmental History: On Mushrooms, Rhino Horns, and Other Frontier Objects in Chinese History"
Thursday, March 2, 3:30 PM, University Club, 313
CHE is pleased to welcome Jonathan Schlesinger, assistant professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington and author of Jonathan Schlesinger on "An Inside-Out View of Qing Environmental History: On Mushrooms, Rhino Horns, and Other Frontier Objects in Chinese History"
Thursday, March 2, 3:30 PM, University Club, Room 313
CHE is pleased to welcome Jonathan Schlesinger, assistant professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington and author of A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule (Stanford University Press, 2017). Unprecedented quantities of exotic things poured into China in the eighteenth century: rhinoceros horns from Vietnam, sea cucumbers from Fiji, sandalwood from East Timor, sea otter pelts from California, freshwater pearls from Manchuria, and mushrooms from Mongolia. Trade was so intense, in fact, that almost all of these booming trades would go bust by 1840. Local ecosystems had simply reached their natural limits. This talk examines the environmental history of one such resource rush: the Mongolian mushroom rush of the 1810s and 1820s. Steppe mushrooms were big business in the Qing empire, and by the 1820s thousands of undocumented workers were crossing the boundary from China to Mongolia to collect them. As reports arrived in Beijing of illegal immigration and environmental destruction, however, the Qing court decided on a dramatic response: a violent "purification” campaign to return the steppe to its ideal and pristine form. Using Chinese, Mongolian, and Manchu archival sources, the talk charts the rise and fall of the mushroom trade, explores the dividing line between the pristine and the altered in Qing politics, and sheds light on the wider environmental history of frontier things and resource rushes in this era.


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