The Scientific Conference: A Social, Cultural, and Political History
International conferences are standard features of scientific life today. Since their emergence, in the second half of the nineteenth century, some 170,000 of them are estimated to have taken place (UIA International Congress Calendar 2017). Still the reasons for this rise, and the functions that conferences have fulfilled in scientific practice, have rarely been studied.
In a new joint research project, recently funded by the HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), a European team of scholars will delve into the history of “The Scientific Conference”, seeing it not as a background for other, ‘real’ action, but as a phenomenon to be grasped in itself. What happened at scientific conferences? How have they exchanged knowledge and shaped expertise? What forms of sociability have developed in these meetings, what rituals have been performed? How have scientific conferences embodied social hierarchies and international relations? How have they informed policies on relevant subjects? The project will look at conferences as “public spaces” and address these questions through that lens. It will start in 2019 and take three years.
Nurses participating in UNRRA conference 1946.
Utrecht conference 1921.