Global fat resources: Connecting themes, approaches and narratives, ca. 1850-2022

Economic historians in Bergen and Aarhus are initiating a workshop on global fat resources 1850-2022 in Bergen, 23-24 May. Deadline for paper proposals: January 8.

Global fat resources: Connecting themes, approaches and narratives, ca. 1850-2022

University of Bergen, 23-24 May 2023

Deadline for proposals: 8 January 2023

Global resources have become a hot topic in many historical disciplines. Societies and economies around the globe have become increasingly dependent on the import and export of energy resources, metals, agricultural products and other commodities.

The exploitation of global resources created wealth, triggered innovation and, on the other, side led to tremendous social and environmental costs. In addition, resource exploitation and trade meant new dependencies and vulnerabilities across the globe, increasing competition for global resources and volatile commodity prices. Global resources represent a subject connecting major societal challenges such as resource security, global justice and environmental and climate change.

This workshop aims at facilitating and building connections between different historical themes, approaches, narratives and disciplines in the investigation of global resources since the mid-19th century until today, with a particular focus on fat resources. Building connections comprises the challenge of connecting themes and subjects such as spaces in the Global South and in the Global North, power relations across large distances, colonial violence and indigenous agency, resource exploitation and social and environmental transformation, resource security and sustainability, etc. Such thematic connections suffer from enormous imbalances and bias, e.g. through the overwhelming predominance of historians and sources from the Global North and the challenging dearth of indigenous and environmental sources and perspectives.

Building connections likewise means crossing disciplinary boundaries and linking concepts and approaches for the investigation of global resources that have been developed in historical disciplines such as global history, environmental history, colonial history, commodity history, history of science and technology and economic history. The workshop encourages discussion, which (different) questions researchers ask, which concepts and approaches they use, which literatures and sources they consider, which interpretations and narratives they construct and with which problems they struggle. It is a major goal to fertilize connections and future cross-disciplinary research perspectives and approaches for the development of future research projects on global resources.

Global fat comprises all kinds of edible fat and (non-fossil) oil resources ranging from oil seeds such as soybeans, palm fruits, coconuts and others to various types of animal fats ranging from whale oil to cattle feed oils. Industries in the Global North became dependent on fat resources from the Global South during the late 19th and 20th centuries. While colonial ventures, trade imperialism and the accelerating globalization of postcolonial fat trade generated tremendous profits primarily in the Global North, it made tropical countries fatefully dependent on the exploitation of their natural resources and became a driving force of accelerating deforestation and social and environmental disruption and change.

We invite proposals on global resource connections, particularly on global fat, including a short abstract (ca. 300 words) and a one page CV until 8 January 2023. Please send your proposal to the following address: The workshop is open to all researchers of relevant disciplines. Travel support will be available for participants without own funding. If you need travel support, please note so on your proposal and give an approximate estimate of the expected travel expenses. This workshop is part of the Tensions of Europe Research Group Technology, Environment and Resources, funded by the research network “Challenging Europe: Technology, Environment and the Quest for Resource Security” (EurReS) and will be organized by Ines Predöhl and Elena Kochetkova (University of Bergen) and Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University).