HPS Colloquia 2020 - 2021

image of doorway with skeleton

The colloquium meets generally three times per quarter on Thursdays at 4:30
in the Lane History Building, Room 307, unless noted below.

  • Charu Singh, Lecturer, Department of History, Stanford University

    Thursday, February 3, 2022 | 4:30-6:00 PM PST on Zoom | possibly in person

    "Disposition, merit, and morality: Figurations of the scientist in India, 1915-1920"

    poster for Charu Singh talk Even as the first Indian scientists rose to global fame at the turn of the twentieth century, the life of science remained novel to most colonial subjects in British India. Who a scientist was, what they did, and what kind of disposition and skills they had, was far from self-evident. How then did the scientist emerge as an exemplar of moral conduct and a figure of sociocultural authority amongst vernacular publics in South Asia?

    In this talk, I analyze the rise of the scientist as a new persona among the readers, authors and editors of the Hindi-language science monthly Vigyan. The serialized ‘life of science’ emerged as an instructive print-artifact for these readers in discursive experiments such as biography, fiction, and reportage. Each of these genres staged particular visions of the talents and dispositions deemed appropriate for a life of science, and each divided the labours and rewards of this life according to existing social hierarchies. Drawing attention to the caste-limits of the Vigyan collective and of its authors’ critique of Indian society, this talk engages with the recent anthropological critique of the culture of merit in contemporary Indian technoscience. Figurations of the exemplary scientist in Vigyan I argue, partook of this caste privilege and renewed commitments to the Hindu social order. The evaluations of ability, interest, disposition, and merit embedded in these figurations also help us rethink the polity of twentieth-century Indian science.

Previous events of the 2021-22 Year

  • Pamela H. Smith, Columbia University

    "Hands-on History: Secrets of Craft and Nature from the Making and Knowing Lab"

    poster for talk2

    Wednesday, November 11 | 4:30-6:00 PM PST on Zoom | to Register for this zoom talk please email rrogers@stanford.edu

    poster for talk

  • Josy Musil-Gutsch, LMU-Munich

    Thursday, December 9, 2021| 4:30-6:00 PM PST on Zoom and live in person in History Bldg Room 307| to Register for this zoom talk please email rrogers@stanford.edu

    "Sealed with Wax: How Materials Connect the History of the Sciences and the Humanities"

    The history of the relationship between the humanities and the sciences around 1900 is often told as an intellectual history of increasing divide between the "two cultures." The story I am telling, however, heads in the opposite direction. My project explores the surprising ways of how the sciences and the humanities were entangled directly and practically in research on material objects such as ancient glazed tiles, medieval paper manuscripts, and a wax bust from the Renaissance. Scientists interested in cultural history contributed to research problems in the humanities with their scientific tools, methods, and expertise, and sometimes turned into historians themselves. By analyzing the practices and dynamics of research collaborations between sciences and humanities, I am adding to a more diverse picture of an integrated history of the humanities and sciences. In this talk I will highlight case studies of collaborations between disciplines such as a) paleography and botany, b) art history and chemistry, and c) assyriology and history of chemistry.

    poster for talk

  • Monica Green, Suppes Visiting Professor of the History of Science, Stanford University

    picture of Monica Green Thursday, January 20, 2022 | 4:30-6:00 PM PST via zoom
    recording of the zoom presentation

    "A 700-Year Erasure: Recovering the Story of Plague at the Fall of Baghdad (1258)"

     How can a pandemic be "lost"? In the midst of our own modern pandemic, the idea that a pandemic could be invisible to contemporaries, or lost to the historical record seems hard to fathom. Yet the field of History of Medicine is only now wrestling with how much remains unknown about the histories of infectious diseases. The new field of palaeogenetics is transforming our ability to investigate the past at a molecular level. Findings in the field of plague studies have been particularly spectacular. But this work by scientists also forces historians to return to their documentary record to see why they had missed stories that now seem so obvious. The story of the role of plague in the Mongol conquest of Baghdad was retrieved not by geneticists, but by historians. Yet the reasons the story was lost in the first place offer an opportunity for historians to reflect on how we define "archives," and on what a slender thread we sometimes weave historical narratives.

    Professor Monica Green is a distinguished medieval historian and historian of science and medicine who has previously taught at Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and Arizona State.  Her numerous publications include Women's Health Care in the Medieval West (2000) and Making Women's Health Masculine:  The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynecology (2009).  She has received many awards and fellowships for her work from the Institute for Advanced Study, Medieval Academy of America, and the History of Science Society, and many other scholarly organizations.  In recent years, Professor Green has been rethinking the history of the Black Death with the tools of history and bioarcheology and more generally rewriting the global history of disease and pandemics in the premodern world.  See her recent essay on "The Four Black Deaths" in the December 2020 issue of the  American Historical Review. 

  • Dagomar Degroot, Georgetown University

    Wednesday, January 26, 2022 | noon PST on Zoom | Register here

    The History of Climate and Society: Learning form the Past to Prepare for the Future

    Degroot speaking with slide at event ABSTRACT Historians and scholars in many other disciplines that consider the past – archaeologists, economists, geneticists, geographers, linguists, and paleoclimatologists, among others – have long explored how natural climate changes influenced human history. This scholarship, which has been termed “climate history” or, more recently, the “History of Climate and Society” (HCS), is quickly growing in popularity and influence. This talk provides an overview and criticism of the field as a multidisciplinary endeavor. It provides a brief history of systematic attempts to link climate change to the human past, then explains the different methods, sources, and causal mechanisms pioneered by HCS scholars. It also highlights systematic shortcomings and blind spots in this scholarship, and attempts to explain their causes. It then introduces a new approach to HCS that is helping scholars uncover how some populations endured past climate changes, and explores whether it can - and should - provide lessons that may help us prepare for a hotter future.

    SPEAKER BIO Dagomar Degroot is an associate professor of environmental history at Georgetown University. His first book, The Frigid Golden Age, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018; his next book, Ripples in the Cosmic Ocean, is under contract with Harvard University Press and Viking. He publishes equally in both historical and scientific journals, most recently for Nature, Climate of the Past, Environmental History, and Environment and History. He is co-director of the Climate History Network and HistoricalClimatology.com, co-host of the popular podcast Climate History, and writes for a popular audience in publications that include the Washington Post and Aeon Magazine. For more information, please visit the CMEMS website

  • Previous Year's HPST Colloquia

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