I'm happy to invite contributions from participants for a roundtable
session that will be held at the 2015 conference of the American Society
for Eighteenth Century Studies in Los Angeles. Details of the conference
can be found here - https://asecs.press.jhu.edu/. This session is being
organised by the newly-formed Science Studies Caucus of ASECS.
The roundtable will seek to foster discussion about the approaches used
within and across disciplines to the study of the 18th Century sciences,
and is thus simply titled 'How do we Study Eighteenth-Century Science?'.
For full details of our aims, see the description included below this
If you would be interested in participating, please contact one of the
sessions chairs, Alex Wragge-Morley (University College London -
[log in to unmask]) or Courtney Weiss-Smith (Wesleyan
University - [log in to unmask]) with a brief proposal including
details of how you would contribute to the roundatble.
All good wishes,
Courtney Weiss-Smith and Alex Wragge-Morley
Science Studies Caucus Roundtable, ASECS 2015:
How Do We Study Eighteenth-Century Science?
This roundtable seeks to provoke debate and discussion about the
variousf ways in which scholars engage with the eighteenth-century
sciences. This panel seeks to bring together scholars working on
eighteenth-century science from different disciplinary, methodological
and theoretical perspectives—including the history of science, science
studies, literature, art history and material culture. Indeed, we invite
participants to reflect on these differing disciplinary, methodological
and theoretical perspectives.
In asking "How do we study eighteenth-century science," we are motivated
by two main considerations about disciplinarity. First, widespread
disagreement persists among scholars of different disciplines about the
very basics of studying the sciences of the past. Despite the growth of
interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary studies, scholars still can
find themselves at odds over fundamental issues about the aims and
methods of inquiry. Further, our period is one in which understandings
of science, religion, history and literature were interconnected and in
flux; it is also a period that was important in shaping the disciplinary
divisions that we have inherited. To ask how we study eighteenth-century
science is thus to encourage reflexive meditations on the emergence,
importance, and limits of our own sense of disciplinarity.
Pertinent questions to explore might include:
What counts as evidence? How do scholars from different fields treat
To what extent do scholars looking at the sciences from different
disciplinary perspectives ask different questions or start from
different fundamental assumptions?
To what extent do you feel you risk anachronism by studying the
eighteenth-century sciences with the questions and strategies of modern
disciplines? How do you deal with this issue?
What are the possibilities and the pitfalls posed by genuine
What are the chief advantages of methods employed by scholars outside
your discipline? What disadvantages do you perceive?
How has your own discipline been shaped by work being done in other
How does the study of the eighteenth-century sciences differ from the
study of other socio-cultural phenomena?
Are there significant differences between the study of the 'hard' and
'soft' eighteenth-century sciences? Do we need more cultural histories
of mathematics and fewer of natural history and collecting?