ESHS2024: Science in political transitions. The role of the sciences in era changes.

Dear colleagues,

We welcome contributions for a session for the upcoming ESHS2024 conference in Barcelona.

Symposium title: ‘Science in political transitions. The role of the sciences in era changes’

Convenors: Max Bautista Perpinyà (UCLouvain) and Judit Gil-Farrero (Universidad de Zaragoza)


‘Transition’ is a concept of the new millennium: we move ‘towards’ an era of socio-ecological transformations, a catchphrase that blends social, political, and technological items, turning a bleak catastrophic future into a bright solution. The role of science and technology in this imaginary is ambiguous, to be negotiated with other forms of change: activism, policy, and politics. However, the relationship between science and political transition is not a given, as historians of science can attest. For instance, the production of crops and animal products in fascist states, organised along the vertical structure of research-syndicates-producers started to disappear in the post-WWI scenario, but breeding programs awkwardly and silently squeezed through institutional changes. Project Paperclip helped further the US space program through the inclusion of Nazi scientist refugees. The Science for the People movement or the May ’68 revolt, on the other hand, exemplifies the efforts of scientists in building bridges with anti-war and labour rights movements. More examples can be brought forward, putting the finger on the dual role of science as an emancipating and oppressing force, and the nuances we may find in between. This session aims to historize the role of science in political transitions, with particular attention to how scientists navigated in the political sphere. Despite being familiar with ‘revolutions’ and ‘innovations’, the concept of transition remains undertheorised in the History of Science. We thus also welcome more conceptual communications. We imagine two broad sorts of communications (but not restricted to):
– case studies on the role of science in political transitions, be it from or to democratic, authoritarian, or totalitarian states.
– genealogies on the concept of ‘transition’ itself. How are transitions different from breaks, and do scientific revolutions parallel political ones? When did we start thinking in terms of ‘transitions’, and how do they differ from abrupt breaks?

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