[cancelled] CSH–OeAW Lecture by Ronnie Ellenblum: “‘Resilience’ or ‘Fragility’? Reconsidering Climate and Historical Civilizations”

Mar 11, 2020 | 15:0016:30

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We are sorry to have to cancel this event due to newest measures against coronavirus spreading.


OEAW’s FWF Wittgenstein-Prize Project “Moving Byzantium” and the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, Research Group “Social Complexity and Collapse”,

would like to invite to a public lecture on

“‘Resilience’ or ‘Fragility’?
Reconsidering Climate and Historical Civilizations”

by Prof. Ronnie ELLENBLUM, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem



The lecture will take place at the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Hollandstraße 11-13/1, 1020 Vienna.

After the talk we invite to a wine reception.




In his lecture, Ronnie Ellenblum will suggest a new theoretical paradigm of “fragility” to replace or supplement the hegemonic discourse of “resilience”, which claims that humanity is capable of using its technological, organizational and political capabilities to cope with any climatic challenge that nature might place in its path. He will explain the decline in the interest of the humanistic sciences in climate history and the parallel rise of experimental climate sciences and their development into a global science of immense power (perhaps the first global science), which argues that humanity has the power to influence nature and the climate.


Ronnie Ellenblum claims that climate affects the stability of civilizations mainly through the availability of food, and that a crisis affecting food provision that lasts only one or two decades is enough to bring a society to the brink of its resilience, beyond which it begins to collapse. The concept of “fragility” emanates from the existential dependence of human civilizations on the steady provision of food. All the food we consume, its quantity and quality, is affected by the climate. This dependence is accompanied by constant anxiety, by a feeling of helplessness due to our inability to know what climatic conditions will prevail this year or the next. The helplessness and anxiety that accompany this existential dependence are the reasons for the state of fragility that has characterized human culture since the dawn of history.


It will also be claimed that affluence and collapse are in fact two sides of the single entangled phenomenon of fragility, and that affluence, stability, and the feeling of security produced by years of stable climate are components of no less importance than the fear of collapse. Ellenblum will suggest a humanistic definition of the concept of affluence, which will be presented not as a datum but as a continuous process that creates a dynamic “state of mind” of plenty. During this process, goods, services, institutions and even feelings are transformed from “luxuries” into “everyday consumer goods”, finally to become basic and indispensable needs. Civilizations and individuals are constantly occupied with their fragility, with their desire and hope for their welfare and affluence to keep growing, or with their fears of losing them.




Ronnie Ellenblum is Professor of Historical Geography and Environmental History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Crusader Castles and Modern Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean: Climate Change and the Decline of the East, 950–1072 (Cambridge University Press, 2012).


Find the official invitation HERE.


Mar 11, 2020


Moving Byzantium
Complexity Science Hub Vienna


Hollandstraße 11-13/1
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