A combination of the history of everyday life (Alltagsgeschichte), social history (Sozialgeschichte) more broadly, and environmental history (Umweltgeschichte) guide my research. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the experiences of everyday people as they navigate and engage with different environments, in Germany, and throughout its empires. I do so namely by concentrating on specific case studies, or micro-histories, embedded within broader narratives. So far I focused on environmental justice movements in post-World War II Germany; I also analyzed constructions of supposed young delinquents within the urban spaces of Munich. My current research focuses on environmental dynamics in the German empire, namely colonial Southwest Africa (modern-day Namibia).
History of Youth and Urban History
My dissertation and book focus 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 – and I was also able to discuss it in more detail for the New Books in History podcast.
“This is a strong contribution to the (still under-researched) post-war history of West Germany, one that also provides fresh insights into the histories of European youth and Cold War cultural politics. It transcends traditional markers of German history such as Stunde Null, moving from a ‘generational’ approach to one more rooted in the everyday history of youth.” [Alan McDougall, University of Guelph, backcover]
“….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 Justice (Umweltgerechtigkeit)
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 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. I returned to various archives and libraries over the last years and also spent time in London and Basel – and began presenting on my findings at numerous conferences.
So far, a couple of publications came out of the larger project. First, a short vignette around the nationalization of trout in German Southwest Africa recently appeared on the Environment & Society platform Arcadia. My article titled “Water, Sand, Molluscs” has been published in Environment and History; another article focusing on dowsing is currently under review.
During my time in Namibia, I stumbled upon a variety of intriguing legacies of German colonialism. The result was a side-project, a chapter in an edited volume titled Archiving Settler Colonialism (Routledge, 2018). My chapter focuses on the genre of German settler colonial ‘reprints’ or ‘republications’ as these appear in Namibia today, a literary genre, I contend, that aims to sustain existing settler hegemonies.
At the moment I am finalizing research with the generous help of an NEH summer stipend around environmental dynamics in German Southwest Africa.