My Ph.D. thesis, The Historical Ontology of Environment: From the Unity of Nature to the Birth of Geopolitics [pdf], investigates the historical development of three concepts:

  1. Milieu
  2. Climate
  3. Environment

Altogether, it covers a period from antiquity to around the start of the twentieth century. It pays particular attention to how concepts pass between domains—for example, as the concept of ‘medium’ (or ‘milieu’) passed from being a physical or metaphysical concept into being a literary, biological, sociological, and political one. Moreover, it situates these concepts in terms of the material and political significance they had in their particular time period—for example, as the concept of climate informed medical practice, was visualised via new cartographical techniques, and provided a conceptual basis for colonial administration.

More generally, I articulate these stories in terms of ‘historical ontology.’ While this term is usually associated with Michel Foucault’s ‘genealogical’ histories, I reinterpret ontology to signify the ways in which things are, as I put it, ‘received as real’ by different collectives. My work also has, therefore, an extensive philosophical dimension.