David Lowenthal and the Quest for the Unity of Knowledge

Authors: Sverker Sörlin*, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Topics: Geographic Thought, Historical Geography, Environment
Keywords: environmental humanities, historical geography, environmental history
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation will be one of several in a memorial session in the honor of David Lowenthal, who was Professor Emeritus of Geography at University College, London. I will talk about Professor Lowenthal's contribution to the emerging field of Environmental Humanities and most particularly on his last book, Quest for the Unity of Knowledge, which was published posthumously by Routledge in November 2018. The book is based on a series of lectures that he gave while a visiting fellow with the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm in the fall term of 2012. One of them was the first in what has since then become a series of annual Stockholm Archipelago Lectures. The book, aimed at a general academic audience, is an astonishingly wide ranging, profoundly erudite, carefully detailed, still intense and passionate presentation of the always present, and competing, ideals of analytical focus versus perspective and overview. In his book, he shows how ingrained bias toward unity or diversity shapes major issues in education, religion, genetics, race relations, heritage governance, and environmental policy. Quest for the Unity of Knowledge explores the Two Cultures debate in the postwar era, and it covers areas such as conservation, ecology, history of ideas, museology, and heritage studies, to a large degree aligning with Lowenthal's career long research interests. Several of these themes touch upon central features of the Environmental Humanities as they have emerged in particular during the present decade, raising issues of new relationships between environmental knowledge and the arts and humanities.


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