About this Project
2015 – 2016
Professor Dan Smail (Department of History, Harvard University) took up residence as a Neubauer Visiting Fellow in the Fall quarter of 2015. Smail, who is a medievalist by training, has played a central role in pioneering a new scholarly approach known as Deep History, which operates at the intersection of history, anthropology, archeology, and evolutionary biology. This research program integrates the evolutionary history of the brain and the distant past of the human species into historical scholarship; it also seeks to embrace an array of sources and methodologies that are not conventionally used by historians. Deep History is part of a larger intellectual turn towards problems of environment, evolution, and climate, and it poses significant challenges to the discipline of history, as well as to other humanistic and social scientific modes of inquiry. At the Neubauer, Smail worked on a book on the deep history of humans and things, and the ecological or environmental consequences of those relationships. Moving beyond simple claims about the connection of modernity to material acquisitiveness, Smail sought to develop a wider perspective on the interactions of human beings with objects and, in particular, on the ways that objects are used, re-used and discarded.
While in residence, Smail gave a public lecture on his research on October 23, 2015 at the Neubauer Collegium. This lecture took place as part of the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science (CHSS) Workshop.
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