Gepubliceerd op 13-01-2020

Call for papers: Research and innovation practices in non-academic settings in Europe 17th-21st Centuries

Call for Paper: Research and innovation practices in non-academic settings in Europe, 17th-21st Centuries

« On April 2nd 1853, the Rev. George Jones, Chaplain of the United States Navy, set off on a nautical voyage to Japan and back, and made visual observations of the Zodiacal Light every night, evening and morning, for the whole duration of the trip, a period of over two years. Jones was meticulous in his documentation of the appearance of the phenomenon, and made efforts to eliminate subjectivity from his findings by seeking corroboration from his companions on the ship, who had no prior expectations of what they were supposed to see. His records, published in 1856 in Washington, were the first serious sustained study of the subject, and still represent the biggest single archive of attentions to the Zodiacal Light; in particular, his accounts of its variability with time and latitude still give pause for thought. (May, 2008, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. New York: Springer, 4)

This example shows how a non-academic research setting influences the knowledge that is ultimately produced. In this particular case, a navy chaplain, bound to very long missions with major latitude changes, devoted himself to repeated astronomic observation of the same phenomenon over a long period of time, in a way that would not be possible for other social actors. His work remained – twelve years ago at least – a usable source of information for astrophysicists interested in the question.

The aim of this conference is to examine the production of scientific, medical, technical and artistic knowledge in non-academic settings in Europe between the 17th and 21st centuries.

The point is to understand who these non-academic social actors were, and to study the interactions between their research conditions, the knowledge produced and its reception. No presupposition on the marginality of or indeed centrality of said social actors should be deduced from the wording of the question. On the contrary, it calls for a study of the complex interactions between social and scholarly social spheres.

A first approach to this question is to conduct sociological studies of these non-academic social actors, by using for example biographic or prosophographic methods. Submissions could include studies of groups situated at the intersection of professional and academic spheres, such as engineers, experts or members of learned societies. Observations on the contribution of country physicians to medical research or on networks of actors on the margins of academia producing specific kinds of knowledge could also be included. Knowledge produced in situations of oppression – be it class, gender, race, colonial and post-colonial settings – as well as the impact of these settings on the knowledge produced are also part of the conference theme.

In a second approach, papers may focus on the material conditions of observation and data collection. Non-academic social actors operate under specific research conditions that should be examined, focusing on how these conditions influence the attained results. The question may be extended to scholars placed in improvised fieldwork situations, such as Marcel Mauss, observing the body techniques of his comrades in arms in the trenches of the First World War.

The question of contexts of violence and war and the discovery and innovation that take place in them is a third possible approach to the conference question. Papers may be dedicated to the study of interaction between the scientific, military and industrial spheres during conflicts.

Submissions may also relate to the question of access to scientific literature as well as the diffusion of research. This point may be approached from the point of view of institutional obstacles – when they exist – but also from that of style and writing norms. The importance of this last dimension does of course vary during the time frame taken into account as scientific fields become more and more professionalised.

Taking into account a four-century time frame makes it necessary to try and understand how long term evolution of scientific methods, practices and institutions influence knowledge production. Amongst the transformations the impact of which should be taken into account are the evolutions of universities themselves (reforms, increase in students numbers), the progressive emergence of disciplinary fields and their professionalisation, colonisation and decolonisation, industrialisation and the growing importance of technical invention and patents as well as the place of armed conflicts in the societies studied. An attention given to periodisation and to the identification of transition periods will be appreciated. Papers may discuss the relevance or irrelevance for specific contexts of such turning points as the beginning of industrialisation in the end of the 18th century, major scientific discoveries at the beginning of the 20th century or the massification of higher education by the 1950s.

Papers questioning the relevance of the “professional researcher” category depending on the historical context as well as those developing a critical reflection on the role of non-academic social actors in our scientific practices today will be particularly favoured.

Three main focuses of research, amongst other, can thus be identified:

1. Conditions of knowledge production

2. Non-academic social actors: individual and group portraits

3. Knowledge transmission and interactions with the academic world

This conference is organized in a Franco-German framework. The geographic area taken into account is mainly Europe, with a particular focus (on) the French and German speaking worlds. Colonial spaces can also be included, for the time periods in which it is relevant. Papers focusing on other areas are however not excluded.

French, German and English will be used at this conference. It will be a marked advantage to posses at least a passive knowledge of these languages in order to be able to follow the debates. This conference is targeted at early career researches. It is therefore open to PhD candidates, recent PhD holders, and postdoctoral researchers. Papers from advanced master’s students as well as researchers (lecturers, maîtres de conférence, DozentInnen) who are still at the beginning of their academic careers may also be submitted. The conference organizers are historians and historians of science, but submission coming from researchers in other social and human sciences or even in other disciplinary fields (physical and natural sciences, engineering, medicine, computer sciences etc.) will be gladly received, provided they include a historical reflection on their research subject.

How to apply:

For a 20-minute paper, please submit an abstract of about one page to the email address jeifra2020@gmail.com. It should include a title and describe the subject of the paper, as well as the methods and sources used. The abstract may be written in any of the conference three languages (French, German or English). Please also include a CV.

Deadline: March 2nd, 2020

Practical Information

This conference is organized by the Franco-German Institute of Historical and Social Sciences (IFRA-SHS), located in Frankfurt am Main, in Germany. The conference will be held at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt (IG-Farben Haus, Norbert-Wollheim Platz, 1, Raum IG.1-418), on June 15th and 16th 2020. The conference will begin at 2 p.m. on June 15th and will end at 6 p.m. on June 16th.

Accommodation and meals during the conference as well as transportation to and from Frankfurt am Main will be provided by the organizing institutions.


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Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.