Rodin’s Thinker, the New Deal, and Libraries as Spaces of Knowledge

Commenting on his famous work Le Penseur,  or The Thinker,  a century ago, the French sculptor Auguste Rodin described his subject in terms of its utter (masculine) physicality. "What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every … Continue reading Rodin’s Thinker, the New Deal, and Libraries as Spaces of Knowledge

Innocent Ignorance: Whitewashing an Empire with the Boy Scouts of America

The history of organized youth has much to offer scholars interested in processes of knowledge formation and dissemination. This is particularly true of an organization as easily recognizable and widely influential as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Popular culture in the United States is replete with images of cheerful Scouts roaming the woods or … Continue reading Innocent Ignorance: Whitewashing an Empire with the Boy Scouts of America

Race, Gender, Respectability, and Knowledge

The stimulating blog Black Perspectives has published an online roundtable on Black Women and the Politics of Respectability that includes two posts clearly relevant to the history of knowledge. Instead of exploring the link between education and respectability that is familiar, for example, in European social history, these pieces scrutinize the special role played by … Continue reading Race, Gender, Respectability, and Knowledge

Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production

In 1903, the Austrian journalist Emil Löbl observed that "many of today's readers" see their newspaper as a "universal encyclopedia," the study of which, they believed, satisfied their duty as "cultivated people" (Kulturmenschen) to stay informed. Whether or not this was a positive development, journalists needed to recognize that "modern readers expected of newspapers the … Continue reading Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production

History of Knowledge and Contemporary Discourse on Science

The polarizing contemporary debate on science in the United States could be extraordinarily interesting for historians of knowledge, if it were occurring in the past. Still, if we could divert our attention from the news for a moment, we might find it still offers some food for thought. In the midst of the current conversation, … Continue reading History of Knowledge and Contemporary Discourse on Science

Translating Sex: Spartacus and the Gay Traveler in the 1970s

Writing in the age of Yelp from Dupont, the historic center of gay life in Washington, DC, I can have trouble fully imagining the difficulty that many gay men had in accessing gay spaces. Even in the second half of the twentieth century, when gay scenes were expanding in major metropolitan areas across North America … Continue reading Translating Sex: Spartacus and the Gay Traveler in the 1970s

The History of Knowledge: Limits and Potentials of a New Approach

In the German humanities, the term Wissensgeschichte, or history of knowledge, is enjoying frequent use. Some years ago, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) and the University of Zurich created a Centre for the History of Knowledge or, as it is called in German, the Zentrum für Geschichte des Wissens (ZGW). Philosophers, historians of … Continue reading The History of Knowledge: Limits and Potentials of a New Approach