The Helsinki University Humanities Programme, Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum
December 9, 2019 (Monday!), at 14.15- 15.45
Andy Bruno, Northern Illinois University, USA
“Mystery-Solving in the Siberian Taiga: An Environmental History of Tunguska Investigations”
HELSUS Lounge, Porthania 244, Yliopistonkatu 3, 2 krs.
In June 1908 an explosion occurred over a remote section of the Siberian taiga. The blast charred and uprooted trees over a vast expanse more than two thousand square kilometers in area. When researchers investigated this apparent meteorite fall two decades later, they failed to find conclusive evidence of a space rock. Instead, the Tunguska event turned into an international mystery with scientific and fantastic theories being offered about what might have happened there. Aliens, a microscopic black hole, antimatter, a plasmoid, and an experiment of Nikola Tesla have all been proposed as possible culprits behind the blast.This presentation outlines one of the main ideas driving my ongoing research into the history of Tunguska and the efforts to investigate it. The environmental interactions that accompanied research into the Tunguska explosion have possessed their own distinctive logic based around the imperative of solving a mystery. Human use of this patch of Siberia thus departed from the experience of landscapes approached primarily for economic, military, or conservationist purposes. In this talk I will outline some of the main contours of “mystery-solving” as an environmental practice and discuss the experiences of the Tunguska expeditions.
Andy Bruno is Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. He is the author of The Nature of Soviet Power: An Arctic Environmental History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). His articles have appeared in Slavic Review, Environmental History, Isis, Kritika, REGION, WIREs Climate Change, and other outlets. Currently, he is writing his second book, Landscape of Mystery: The Tunguska Explosion and the Siberian Environment.