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Dario Fazzi becomes professor by special appointment: ‘We live in an era of tremendous ecological challenges’

Historian Dario Fazzi is the new professor by special appointment at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies (RIAS), a strategic partner of the Faculty of Humanities. He starts on 1 September and will combine his new position with his current teaching duties at the Institute for History.

Dario Fazzi
Dario Fazzi

The chair of Transatlantic Environmental History is installed in Middelburg, where the RIAS is located. Such a location couldn't be more appropriate, according to Fazzi. ‘There's no better place to carry out the research I want to conduct, which centres on the historical rise of water issues, because the Netherlands – and more specifically Zeeland – has always had a deep relation with water,’ he explains. Moreover, the importance of water will only increase in the future. ‘The most important environmental and ecological challenges that we are facing today are connected to water bodies, from sea level rise to water scarcity. While in the last few decades we have seen the consolidation of techno-political approaches to water management, I hope that the discourse of water justice and water rights can enter the vocabulary of the humanities too.’ 

Facilitator of research

Fazzi wants to achieve this goal by positioning the RIAS as one of the hotspots in continental Europe devoted to the historical study of environmental issues. Fazzi especially strives to promote research on blue history, the study of the relationship between water bodies – in all their forms – and the development of cultures, societies, and human interactions. ‘Historians need to reflect on the consequences of blue history as an invitation to move the focus of our historical research away from land-based perspectives. To foster this, I want to act as a facilitator and help everybody who is interested in exploring water-related ecological and environmental issues from a historical perspective,’ he explains.

As part of the effort, Fazzi's research will continue to focus on how concerns over the fate of marine environments have been impacting contemporary transatlantic relations. ‘I want to uncover how a peculiar, western approach to water resources and issues has affected the exchanges between political elites and intellectuals, the spread of networks of solidarity, and the institutionalisation of a wider environmental governance.’ 

Awareness through education

Besides his new duties associated with the chair, Fazzi will keep teaching students at Leiden University on topics that concern the role of the United States on the global environment. He believes education is a crucial component in the fight against climate change. ‘There are people who still underestimate or deny this transformation, because they do not have the necessary awareness to understand the issue,’ explains Fazzi. ‘We need to teach young people that we should invest in our future by taking care of our planet.’

To raise such an awareness, Fazzi is committed to educational innovation. One of his focal points is advancing virtual exchanges among students across the Atlantic, as he has done in the past year. ‘My students really enjoyed that. They especially liked the cross-cultural exchange and the fact that they could explore local ecological issues – all related to delta environments - from a transnational point of view,’ says Fazzi. ‘It is a great way for exploring ecological threats that invites students to put themselves in someone else's shoes so to better understand their position in the world.’ 

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