This session presents four geographically disparate case studies in environmental history. Taken as a group, they suggest the extraordinary potential of environmental history for exploring questions of scale and the interactions of multiple levels of actor-networks. The regions described in this session are geopolitically peripheral, but deeper investigation reveals a wealth of influences exercised on and by each region by far-distant ideas and actions. Because their ties to other regions are often obscured by physical or ideological distance, peripheral regions demand closer study to tease out the significance of connections and currents flowing across and between political boundaries. Once revealed, however, these connections can tell us much about the interactions between micro- and macro- factors in shaping historical landscapes.
The papers presented in this session focus on questions of scale and connection in marginal areas through a variety of lenses. Diana Gergel's research examines the emergence of conservation as a science in Kenya and Tanzania during the 1920s-1930s using soil science research and discourse. Sarah Hamilton’s work in the Albufera Natural Park focuses on nonhuman actors in transnational networks. Maya Peterson's paper looks at the way in which local, regional, and transnational regimes of knowledge have shaped landscapes in Central Asia in the 20th century. Eric Steiger identifies California's dreaded Colorado Desert as a vital proving ground for the mechanisms of twentieth-century U.S. expansion.