Signe Skjoldborg Brieghel

Signe Skjoldborg Brieghel


My research explores how agro-industrial landscapes and histories come to matter in green transition policies and practices. As an early career environmental humanities scholar, my thematic interests include multispecies ethnography, ethnobotany, and environmental history in the nexus of ecology, capitalism, livestock, crops, and agrarian political economy. Below, i outline some of my previous and current research projects.

Social histories of agro-industrial ressource optimization

My doctoral thesis focused on the use of scientific schemes for resource optimization in contexts of agro-industrial production, specifically in the case of proteins. I conducted six months of ethnographic and archival fieldwork investigating the historical commercialization of protein-rich byproducts and species in Denmark – in particular, whey and insects. I used ethnographic methods to interrogate how industry professionals, supported by national and transnational political campaigns, utilize proteins as a means to expand agro-industrial production. My thesis shows how in times of environmental ruin, resource optimization through utilizing dairy by-products and insect species adds more layers of production and waste to an already pressed food system. In addition, I show that the transformation of industrial by-products and species into new protein products hinges on a view to global problems such as population growth, poverty, and food security as sites of economic speculation and investment, rather than issues of environmental and social livability.

Cattle Crossroads: Researching Danish Livestock Production for the Future 

From November of 2021 through January 2024, I have been employed as a full-time postdoc with the interdisciplinary research project Cattle Crossroads. Researching Danish Livestock Production for the Future (CC), led by environmental anthropologist Frida Hastrup and veterinary epidemiologist Liza Rosenbaum Nielsen, and funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark – Independent green research program. CC merges anthropology and the humanities with veterinary and animal science to identify and proactively repurpose the theoretical and practical knowledge that conditions Danish cattle production in alignment with absolute environmental sustainability assessments that posit finite limits to environmental and climate impact. 
Throughout 2022 and 2023, I conducted collaborative fieldwork with team members on dairy and beef farms all across Denmark to enquire into the changes to local livelihoods and landscapes wrought by histories of livestock industrialization and globalization. I also conducted numerous farm visits with dairy feed consultants to study how global resource landscapes and a suite of environmental dilemmas shoot through practices of feeding livestock. To contrast these findings, I conducted fieldwork on alternative dairy farms where farm practices hinge on local landscape particularities rather than standardized measures.

Historical soils and human-altered biogeochemical flows

In collaboration with agricultural historian Nina Toudal Jessen, I have co-designed and implemented a pilot project that gives historical weight to current scientific and political debates on nutrient water pollution. Through archival and ethnographic fieldwork, we investigate how the logics of extractivism and rationalization that underpin modern agricultural practices have saturated Danish landscapes and their waterways through time, and what this means to current schemes of environmental governance.

I am part of the Centre for Sustainable Futures located at the Humanities dep./Saxo Institute,

I am a member of the danish Climate and Transition Council // Klima- og Omstillingsrådet (KOR), a voluntary initiative comprising researchers across the humanities and social, technical and natural sciences. Klima- og Omstillingsrådet ( 

I also teach and supervise students at both BA and MA level.

Udvalgte publikationer

  1. Udgivet

ID: 37677771