[Humanist] 26.331 cfp: history of science from below
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Sep 22 11:19:53 CEST 2012
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 331.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2012 16:03:45 +0200
From: Nathalie Richard <Nathalie.Richard at UNIV-LEMANS.FR>
Subject: Call for paper History of science from below
Call for Papers - History of science from below
Université du Maine, Le Mans, France – June 5-7, 2013
“History from below” emerged in Britain around 1960 as a new
historiographic project. It intended to substitute the history of
practices and of forms of popular resistance for the more traditional
history of institutions and great men, and therefore to confer a new
legitimacy on the former. One important outcome of this new historical
standpoint has been to take into consideration forms of knowledge and
behaviours formally disregarded as marginal or irrational. Focusing on
“modest” or “lay” agents, and reconsidering their role in history,
this historical trend has greatly contributed to the renovation of
social and political history.
History of science, notably history of medicine, did not remain
uninfluenced by these new historical perspectives. In 1985, Roy Porter
advocated a departure from a monolithic history of discoveries and
medical glories neglecting popular practices as part of the cure.
Olivier Faure has since showed how crucial were the patient’s point of
view and initiative. New research grounded on new sources, such as
private or first person writings and letters kept in the archives of
physicians (for example the Swiss Samuel Tissot), has highlighted the
patient’s viewpoint and have contributed to revising the classical
history of medicine “from below.” Now studied from multiple angles,
the process of a linear and univocal, solely professional and
academic, medicalization is rendered more complex, and the autonomous
strategic aptitude of lay actors is reappraised.
In the history of experimental sciences, the practical skill and
knowledge of craftsmen – “the knowledge from the hand”, according to
Robert Halleux in 2009 – generate practices which can be considered as
forms of trial, even as forms of experiment. During the eighteenth,
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, botany and zoology evolved by
taking into account this practical knowledge of gardeners, breeders,
amateurs and collectors. Learned societies, botanical gardens, rose
gardens and orchards were meeting points where scientists and
non-scientists alike would observe plants and try to explain and
master plant growth and heredity. Observations made by amateurs have
often been collected and used by academic scientists in theoretical
debates over evolution.
Nowadays, the nature and the extent of “scientific cultures” among the
general public is an important political and social issue. It is an
issue in the growing role played by associations of patients or
relatives in the field of medicine. It is also an issue in the “public
consultations” which are regularly held on technical and scientific
policy. Therefore it seems promising to extend the perspectives of
“history from below” to all human and natural sciences, and to emulate
discussions on its methodological and theoretical implications. Such
is the aim of this conference.
Papers should focus on the eighteenth – twentieth centuries,
corresponding to the period of emergence of the human and natural
sciences in their modern institutional form. Papers dealing with
contemporary subjects will be accepted as long as they include some
The following topics could be favoured:
- Outsiders from the main academic institutions (general
practitioners, technical staff, artisans, amateurs, etc.), and
practises at the margins.
- Mediators, and modes of dissemination of scientific knowledge
(associations, networks, general and popular press, dictionaries and
cyclopaedias, publishers, etc.)
- History of experimental “subjects” and the public as actors of
science, and not solely as material or audience of scientific
discourses coming from “above”
- Appropriations of science (adaptation, resistance, etc.)
The aim of this conference is also to stimulate exchanges on
methodological issues, such as:
- Sources. What kind of sources can be used to write a history “from
below” (oral sources, private letters, first person writings, etc.)?
- What should be the limits of the history of science “from below?”
Which categories of actors, which groups, which forms of knowledge
should be included, or excluded? And how to take them into account?
General practitioners are an interesting example. How and when did
they cease to be part of the history of medicine “from above?” And how
to write their history “from below?”
- What should be the right scale for the history of such actors and
practices? One could for example question the relationship between the
history of science “from below” and microhistory.
Collective discussion on methodological issues is still scarce
regarding history of science “from below.” It should therefore be
central to this conference.
How to submit a paper?
Abstracts (300/500 words), with formulation of methodological issues,
and a short bio-bibliographical notice (100 words), should be sent to
the organizing committee before September 30, 2012. Results of the
selection process will be announced by November 2012.
Conference languages: French and English (translation will not be
provided during the conference).
Université du Maine, Le Mans, France (Le Mans, France,
This conference is sponsored by the Centre de Recherches Historiques
de l’Ouest (CERHIO, CNRS UMR 6258, http://www.univ-rennes2.fr/cerhio)
Organizing committee and contacts:
Cristiana OGHINA-PAVIE (CERHIO, Université d’Angers)
cristiana.oghinapavie at gmail.com
Hervé GUILLEMAIN (CERHIO, Université du Maine) guiherv at club-internet.fr
Nathalie RICHARD (CERHIO, Université du Maine) Nathalie.Richard at univ-lemans.fr
Professeur d'histoire contemporaine
Université du Maine, Le Mans, France
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