Centre Alexandre Koyré
History of Science; STS; Global History; Colonial History; Scientific activism; Scientific internationalism
The Scientific Conference: A Social, Political and Cultural History.
Feasts of Progress: Scientific Conferences at Universal Expositions, 1889-1958
My research is part of the HERA-funded collaborative project ’The Scientific Conference: A Social, Cultural and Political History’, which explores the international scientific conference. Although depicted as a standard feature of scientific life, with around 170,000 conferences held since 1851, the international scientific conference as hardly been researched. This project seeks to deepen our understanding of scientific conferences and their effects on science by analyzing their cultures, politics, materiality and social textures over the long 20th century.
As part of this project, my research focuses on the numerous scientific conferences held during the Universal and Colonial Expositions organized between 1889 and 1958. These peculiar spaces – where science merged with state politics and the carnivalesque tradition of funfairs – were international scientific hotspots, which attracted scientists from around the world. Scientists met and exchanged at the many international scientific conferences organized during these fairs. These conferences were diverse in forms and purposes and were integral to the fair ground and the diverse scientific facilities that it showcased from science museums to botanical gardens.
My case study aims to highlight how scientists experienced these Expositions by examining in particular the interactions between the meeting hall and the fair ground. It seeks to explore how the setting of the Exposition shaped the kind of transcultural relations, modes of performing, identities and knowledge produced by these conferences. It finally intends to identify the inclusionary and exclusionary patterns of these conferences and their effects on both science and society.
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