From Interest in Latin America to Contested Latin American Studies
Research on Latin America has long been a tradition in Germany and especially in Berlin, with interest dating back to Alexander von Humboldt’s expeditions (1799–1804). Early research focused on a distant region whose society and landscape, especially, were largely unknown in Germany. The aim was to explore this region and to produce new knowledge about the “other” in order to better understand the world in its complexity. From early on, decision-makers in political and economic arenas increasingly demanded detailed information about different regions of the world.
Continue reading “Doing Area Studies: Present and Future Perspectives on the History of Latin American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin” →
If you are going to the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia from January 5-8, 2023, please look for Section 128, “Infrastructure, Knowledge, and US Imperialism in the Americas, c. 1890-1970,” Friday, January 6th, 3:30-5, in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. It will feature a presentation by GHI Research Fellow and History of Knowledge Blog editor Mario Peters, “The Intercontinental Railway and the Contentious Production of Knowledge,” as well as one by GHI Research Fellow and Migrant Knowledge Blog editor Andreas Greiner, “Grounding Aviation Knowledge: Pan-American Airways’ Airfields as Sites of Knowledge Production and Transfer.” This blog will offer an overview of other history-of-knowledge themed panels at this event at the start of January.
CALLS (for abstracts, papers, presentations, etc.):
Continue reading “Knowledge Notes” →
Johan Östling’s Humboldt and the Modern German University has been translated from Swedish into English. Even better, this Lund University Press publication is OpenAccess and can be downloaded as a PDF.
From the abstract:
By combining approaches from intellectual history, conceptual history and the history of knowledge, the study investigates the ways in which Humboldt’s ideas have been appropriated for various purposes in different historical contexts and epochs. Ultimately, it shows that Humboldt’s ideals are not timeless—they are historical phenomena and have always been determined by the predicaments and issues of the day.
Skepticism and debate are always welcome and are critically important to the advancement of science. . . . Skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.
The executive director of the American Meteorological Society, Keith Seitter, made this distinction about skepticism in his letter to the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, on June 21, 2017. In that letter, he bemoaned the secretary’s rejection of empirically based knowledge about climate change. At the same time, he underlined the importance of related research and of taking the resulting evidence seriously.
Continue reading “Negotiating and Communicating Evidence: Lessons from the Anthropocene Debate” →
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 respectability in African American communities as part of what W.E.B. Du Bois called “this sense of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” One response to this acute awareness of scrutiny in a racist society were “pedagogies of respectability,” produced for and circulated via black periodicals and films in the early twentieth century. See Jane Rhodes, “Race, Media, and Black Womanhood in the Early Twentieth Century” for more.
Continue reading “Race, Gender, Respectability, and Knowledge” →
Ein Forscher, eine Forscherin ist meines Erachtens mit Abschluss der Promotion wissenschaftlich mündig.
After earning a PhD, a scholar has, in my opinion, reached academic adulthood.
I have only ever heard the German term Nachwuchs in an academic context, which I understood to be a label for people rather junior in the profession, “trainees” or “young ones,” if you will. The word sounds strange enough when talking about people with one or more books behind them, families, substantial teaching experience, and so on. Nachwuchs can even mean “offspring,” however, which fits perfectly with the parental term one uses in German for a dissertation advisor—Doktorvater or Doktormutter. Thus my translation of the above quotation, which comes from a worthwhile read by Karoline Döring on what Americans might call the status of scholars with “nontraditional” academic careers in Germany: “Wollen wir wirklich BeStI(e)n sein? Ein Plädoyer an und gegen ‘den wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs,'” Mittelalter, February 13/14, 2017. (Don’t miss the comments.)
Continue reading “The ‘Academic Nachwuchs’ Label in Germany” →
In my initial academic encounters with Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the things that impressed me was the availability of handbooks as well as specialized encyclopedias such as Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. The textbook series Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte was a new experience for me. Each volume offered a concise, chronologically organized survey (with key terms in the margins for rapid orientation), followed by a substantial historiographical discussion and bibliography. At the time, I did not appreciate the massive effort behind such compilation and systematization efforts. I just found these tools were quite practical for orienting myself in a given historical subject. Why didn’t we have such useful tools in the United States?
Continue reading “Organizing and Communicating Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations” →