Nature&Nation is a grassroots network of scholars interested in the study of the relationships linking nature and nations. The main aim is to exchange information and ideas among its members and promote common projects. Our ambition is to go beyond the disciplinary borders of environmental history, trying to engage ‘other’ historians in thinking about the traditional issues of their expertise taking into consideration nature and the environmental historical approach. If you want to join the Nature&Nation network, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if environmental history seems to be the less nationalistic among all historical subfields, putting nature and nation together could still seem a dangerous alchemy: racist theories, deterministic approaches, and nationalistic chauvinism seem, in fact, to lurk under every possible discourse on nature and nation. Moreover, taking into consideration the current global environmental problems, it could seem useless to speak about national borders.
Nonetheless, the nation-state has showed an extraordinary resilience, surviving as main scale of analysis in many environmental historical studies, in part because of the ready availability of sources about nature management and measurement just at the national level. In fact, whatever the size of our scale of analysis might be, if we are looking for historical data we have to deal with states. Evidently, states have affected nature by their laws, economic policies, and juridical systems. Determining property rights, planning urban and industrial development, implementing public/private transportations, building national parks, fighting malaria or other, and bloodier, wars, they have played an important role in shaping the national landscape.
Hence, it is quite clear that the nation-state has long been the political container of nature; even more than this, the nation has been a powerful agent in shaping and understanding the natural world. Moreover, if nations are also imagined communities, we need to understand how nature has been used to build the national identity and how the invention of nation has affected the invention of the national nature.