Organized by Zhihui CHEN (SAW, Paris 7 Diderot, France), Jiří Hudeček (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic) and Martina R. Schneider (SAW, Paris 7 Diderot, France; University of Mainz, Germany)
It is well known that history of science played and continues to play an important role in the processes of nation building. For example, histories of the sciences in Germany were published exactly at the time when the German nation state came into being. However, there are also various other ways how state and history of science interact with each other. This is illustrated by the fact that the history of the mathematical sciences was part of the topics to be studied for a state examination to become civil servant in late imperial China for a short period of time. This is likewise illustrated by how in the context of the professionalization of the history of science in Republican and People’s Republican eras of China, the history of mathematics and the history of astronomy became entangled with political power.
These examples point to a larger issue at stake, namely the power (and/or powerlessness) of the historiography of science in general. What kind of powers, real or (self-)ascribed, do the historians and the histories of science have? In what way do the actors themselves perceive and reflect upon matters of power? How are these issues reflected in how they carry out research and write about the history of science? How can their impact be detected, e.g., in the shaping of certain narratives, in the promotion of specific topics of discussion and methodologies, and in mobilizing research resources? The power of the history of science can probably best be captured in contexts in which alternative historiographies exist. One might, for instance, inquire into the dynamics between the centers and margins of historiography of science. One might also analyze how alternative counter-histories change the historical discourse.In this session we start exploring some of these questions focusing on the last two centuries. The approach from the perspective of power allows us to reverse the common perspective, which treats historiography of science as a passive recipient of “influences” and “motivations” from outside; instead, we can study it as an active factor which aims to influence social consciousness and practice.
-- Martina R. Schneider ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ AG für Geschichte der Mathematik und der Naturwissenschaften Institut für Mathematik Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Staudinger Weg 9 55099 Mainz Germany Tel:+49-6131-3922439 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++