Hazardous Travels. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy

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Simone Müller

Dr. Simone Müller

Project Director & Principal Investigator
DFG Emmy Noether Research Group "Hazardous Travels:
Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy"


Rachel Carson Center
Leopoldstr. 11a, 4th floor
80802 Munich

Room: 428
Phone: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 - 72367

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Dr. Simone M. Müller is project manager and principal investigator of the DFG-Emmy Noether Research Group “Hazardous Travels: Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy” at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. She works at the intersection of globalization studies, economic, social and urban history, and environmental humanities. Her research interests range from the international trade in hazardous waste material and the intellectual history of economic ecological thinking, to green city concepts and the study of ocean space.

Simone received her PhD in history from Freie Universität Berlin with a study on the social and cultural creation of global telegraph networks.Wiring the World has been published in 2016 with Columbia University Press. Before the RCC, Simone worked as an assistant professor for North American history at Freiburg University. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, among them from the DAAD, Fulbright, the Smithsonian Institutions, the German Historical Institute, the Science History Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, she received the Maria Gräfin von Linden Preis for her research on the global waste economy. In 2016 she was elected Junior Fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research of Bielefeld University (ZIF) as well as at the Center for Advanced Studies at LMU Munich. In 2017, the Robert Bosch Foundation named her among the leading scientific female scholars of Germany.

Simone is member of the Munich Centre for Global History, the Deadly Dreams international research network on the cultural history of poisons, and Toxic Commons, a colaborative platform of researchers and artists that writes texts, organizes public programs and acts as a body of research in and around toxic dissemination and the environmental injustice inherent to it.

Since 2018, she serves on the editorial board of the International Review of Environmental History and the Advisory Committee Fachinformationsdienst Technik- und Umweltgeschichte.

At Hazardous Travels, Simone investigates, together with her team of four, the structures and dynamics of the international trade in hazardous waste from the 1970s onwards. In her habilitation study, Hazardous Travels. A Ship's Tale of U.S. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy uses the tale of the Khian Sea and an America-in-the-world perspective to extrapolate the global dimension of the movement of hazardous waste material ranging from outdated chemical weapons and pesticides to infamous waste barges and e-waste. The study analyses how these trading movements relate to mutable concepts of ecology and economy, the territoriality of environmentalism, and the assumed entitlement to use land as a sink.

 RCC Research Project: Hazardous Travels. A Ship's Tale of U.S. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy

Selected Publications:

  • Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • “The Life of Waste.” Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2018, no. 3. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.
  • "A wave of interest and action for planet Earth? How UNEP spoke for the environment from Stockholm to Rio." In International Organizations and the Media in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, edited by Heidi Tworek et al. (Routledge Studies in Modern History), Routledge 2018.
  • “Corporate Behaviour and Ecological Disaster: Dow Chemical and the Great Lakes Mercury Crisis, 1970–1972.” Business History (2017), 1–24.
  • “Rettet die Erde vor den Ökonomen? Lawrence Summers’ Memo und der Kampf um die Deutungshoheit über den internationalen Giftmüllhandel.” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 56 (2017): 353–73.
  • with Heidi J.S. Tworek. “The Telegraph and the Bank: On the Interdependence of Global Communications and Capitalism, 1866–1914.” Journal for Global History 2 (2015). 
  • “Umwelt- und Klimapolitik in den USA: lokale Interessen und globale Verantwortung.” In Handbuch Politik in den USA, edited by Christian Lammert, Markus Siewert, and Boris Vormann. Springer, 2014.
  • “Wiring the Pacific: North American Perspectives on a (De-) Colonial Project.” In Provincializing the United States: Colonialism, Decolonization, and (Post)Colonial Governance in Transnational Perspective, edited by Eva Bischoff, Norbert Finzsch, and Ursula Lehmkuhl. Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014.
  • “By Atlantic Telegraph: A Study on Weltcommunication in the Nineteenth Century.” In Medien & Zeit 25, no. 4 (2010): 40–54.

Editorships (selection):

  • Together with Annika Mattisek, “Green City. Explorations and Visions of Urban Sustainability,” Special Issue with RCC Perspectives. Transformations in Environment and Society (2018).
  • Together with Heather Ellis, “Educational Networks, Educational Identities: Connecting 'National' and Global Perspectives,” Thematic Cluster, Journal of Global History 11, 3 (2016).
  • Together with Heidi Tworek, “Imagined Use as a Category of Analysis: New Approaches to the History of Technology,” Special Issue, History and Technology 32, 2 (2016).
  • Together with Peter Itzen “Risk as an Analytical Category: Selected Studies in the Social History of the Twentieth Century,” Special Issue, Historical Social Research. 41, 1 (2016).
  • Together with Heidi Tworek, “Communicating Global Capitalism,” Special Issue, Journal of Global History 10, 2 (2015).

Further Information