[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  
historical perspectives.

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).

Conference venue:
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

Nathalie Richard
Professeur d'histoire contemporaine
Université du Maine, Le Mans, France

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