My scholarship is grounded in conceptions of Sozialgeschichte or, more specifically, Alltagsgeschichte. This means I favor a history from below by focusing on the forgotten voices of ordinary or so-called “small people” (kleine Leute); I also value local case studies or micro histories to expose power structures and to access hidden, forgotten, or devalued experiences. Environmental factors, and environmental history (Umweltgeschichte) more broadly, play an important role within these dynamics. Overall, my historical miniature studies ultimately help capture the social reality of a certain segment of society, thereby setting the stage to explore larger connections.
History of Youth and Urban History
My dissertation and now book focuses on social constructions of youth in Munich between 1942 and 1973. It traces images or representations of young people, including the delinquent boy (der verwahrloste Junge), rowdies (Halbstarke), and teenagers. I argue that youth is not merely a construction but also a tool of social control. Whereas this emphasis closely follows Michel Foucault’s understanding of the “benefits of illegality” (Discipline and Punish), my analysis also draws on urban history and theoretical concepts like Stanley Cohen’s “moral panics.” An article based on my research appeared in the Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth in spring 2013. My book titled Coming of Age: Constructing and Controlling Youth in Munich, 1942-1973 was published in May 2016, and the introduction is available online; it has been received positively.
“….Kalb’s work does a remarkable job of balancing the views of authority figures and young people.” [Choice]
“Kalb’s creativity in examining how youth were designated as lawbreakers, black marketeers, and bohemian rowdies offers a glimpse into larger conversations about postwar society and the return of stability.” [Central European History]
“…and makes for some solid cultural history” [International Social Science Review]
Environmental History (Umweltgeschichte):
My exposure to environmental history at Northern Arizona University made this field a sub-discipline throughout my graduate studies. Since then I completed research around the rise of environmental movements in Germany and presented my findings at several national and international conferences, including the American Society for Environmental History. My article on environmental justice and the German anti-nuclear movement in Wyhl, West Germany, appeared in the journal Global Environment (10/2012). In this submission I argue in favor of using an environmental justice framework as a way to examine anti-nuclear protests in the town of Wyhl, southwest Germany, and possibly beyond. The publishers of this journal invited me to submit an argumentative historiographical essay on the state of environmental history in Europe. Given the diversity of the field, an attempt to do so had to build on the help of experts in the field, stay broad in numerous regards – and remains incomplete. My submission (Global Environment, spring 2014) is thereby merely a starting point for conversations.
Nature and Empire Beyond the German Homeland?
My current research project focuses on German environmental history in colonial Southwest Africa (1884-1915), so modern-day Namibia. In 2014 I began looking into the German settler community during colonial rule. That year, and thanks to a summer research grant from Northern Arizona University, I was able to complete preliminary archival research: I accessed the colonial collections of the National Archives (Bundesarchiv) in Berlin-Lichterfelde, Germany, and spent time in the National Archives and the National Library in Windhoek, Namibia. During my time in Namibia I stumbled upon a variety of intriguing legacies of German colonialism, and I recently submitted a chapter for an edited volume focusing on the genre of German settler colonial ‘reprints’ or ‘republications’ as these appear in Namibia today. A research grant from Bridgewater College allowed me to resume my archival research in summer 2016 in Germany, and I am currently using these materials to shed more light onto a variety of environmental dynamics within this German outpost. I presented about some aspects of my work at the conference “The Best Ideas? Nature, Nations, and Collective Memory” at the German Historical Institute London in December 2016; I am sharing the focus of my current writings at the Berlin-Brandenburg Colloquium für Umweltgeschichte at the Humboldt-University Berlin in June 2017.