“Terms of Disaster” collection

Arcadia, a component of the Environment & Society Portal, and Teach311.org are pleased to announce a co-curated collection of short (about 750 words), punchy, research-based, peer-reviewed environmental histories that will look at the “Terms of Disaster”.

“Land”, “water”, and “air” have been used as central environmental categories to define disasters. These environmental phenomena, as for example the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, the 1931 Central China floods, the Indonesian forest fires of 1997, and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, however, have been described in different ways by a diverse cast of actors. The co-existence of different ways of discussing these events and their aftermath have crucially affected how disasters have been legitimized, for instance, in the determination of causes or in making decisions about recovery. This has been expressed in these cases in a multiplicity of terms and names and in debates about the boundaries of destruction and trauma. The “terms of disaster” are, thus, clearly multi-authored and undergo constant negotiation. The examination of how different actors decide what matters in their understanding of a disaster and how they work around parameters of disaster defined by others needs to be informed by a historical perspective.

In this collection we want to gather contributions that look at the mutating understandings of disasters, at the social and environmental elements that concur to define them, and at varying forms of knowledge and the underlying power relations. We invite thus contributors to consider the whole process that leads to the mediation of the apparent terms of a disaster. The “terms of disaster” refers to the setting and re-setting of the conditions and context of disaster due to human language and word choices. In particular we look for examples of under-studied environmental disasters and under-examined standpoints, with the outlook that a case study approach will build an inclusive understanding of what legitimates an event as a disaster in science, politics, and public opinion.

Articles selected as part of the Arcadia + Teach311.org collection will be indexed exactly as all Arcadia articles and co-published on both Arcadia and Teach311.org sites, with key passages of the article translated into a non-European language.

What to submit

Your article should clearly address one or more of the three categories (land, water, air) of the Arcadia + Teach311.org collection, focus on a specific problem/case, and refer to a specific place and time. Please visit Arcadia to gain a better idea of the publication’s format. You should include 2-5 digital objects (images, video/audio, or other materials). Please also provide a short bio (including research and publications related to your article) and a profile photo. For further details the complete Arcadia guidelines for contributors can be accessed here.

How to submit

Send an email with your article submission as a doc/odt/txt attachment to both Arcadia (arcadia@carsoncenter.lmu.de) and Teach311.org (teach3eleven@gmail.com). If your draft is accepted for consideration two anonymous peer reviewers will read it. If they recommend acceptance, we will ask you to respond to their feedback within two weeks. At that point the resubmitted manuscript will be copy-edited and uploaded for publication. To facilitate connections with existing and future content, individual accepted contributions might also be included in other Arcadia collections.

Deadline: This is a running call and proposals may be submitted by 1 December and 1 May each year for consideration for our Fall and Spring editions respectively.


Founded as a partnership between the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC), Arcadia is an online, peer-reviewed publication platform for short, illustrated, and engaging environmental histories. Arcadia’s goals are to promote visibility and connections in global environmental history and historically minded cognate disciplines and to make original research accessible for general audiences. Arcadia (ISSN 2199-3408) is archived and catalogued by the Bavarian State Library.


Teach311.org is an online project of the Forum for the History of Science in Asia, and the Society for the History of Technology Asia Network. This international network of academics representing various disciplines was created shortly after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disasters in northeastern Japan with the aim of facilitating access to knowledge produced in the humanities and social sciences about disasters. The hope is to sustain reflexive inquiry into the process of studying the production of knowledge about disasters in different contexts. In doing so, to address linguistically uneven access to scholarly knowledge, it encourages the reading, writing and translating of material in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, and English.

Arcadia + Teach311.org – Call for papers

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