Since its inception, the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) has brought together scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss historical, conceptual, epistemological, political, institutional, and ethical issues of the life sciences in an open and informal setting. Over the past twenty-odd years, attendance has increased from about 60 participants to about 350 in Guelph, 2005. In 2007, we hope to continue our tradition of an inclusive and experimental approach, while meeting the challenge of increased attendance.
Scholars wishing to attend the meeting are now invited to submit session and paper proposals on the ISHPSSB website (visit http://www.ishpssb.org/meeting.html). Deadline for submissions is February 15, 2007, and abstracts should not exceed 500 words. Instructions for the use of the abstract submission system can be found at http://www.ishpssb.org/meetingsubmissioninstructions.html. Please also note the guidelines for paper acceptance that have been adopted by the Society.
To facilitate communication in advance of submission, the ISHPSSB website also offers the possibility to post ideas for sessions and discussion panels electronically (http://www.ishpssb.org/phorum/list.php?9). If you are interested in putting together a session or discussion panel by posting a call for contributions electronically, we urge you to specify a deadline for responses to you personally.
While individual paper submissions are welcome, we strongly encourage submission of session and panel discussion proposals. For the 2007 meeting, we especially seek sessions that
• are innovative and cross-disciplinary in content and/or format;
• strengthen the lines of communication among historians, philosophers, social scientists, and biologists;
• open conversations that lead to new ways of thinking about the life sciences and the disciplines that study it;
• bring together people of different disciplinary and national backgrounds.
The Society is open to proposals on any topic connected with the history, philosophy and social studies of the life sciences. For the 2007 meeting, we would especially welcome sessions in the following areas:
• Interdisciplinarity. Recent years have seen the foundation of interdisciplinary centres for the study of the life sciences and their social, legal, and ethical implications in a number of national contexts. At the same time there is a trend towards disciplinary segregation that has also been felt during the ISHPSSB meetings in recent years. What explains these trends of disciplinary specialization? Are historians, philosophers, and social scientists heading in similar directions, or are they heading far afield from one another? Is the pressure on biology studies to become ‘policy relevant’ acting against or actually encouraging specialization? Why do history, philosophy, and sociology of science tend to drift apart, while disciplines become less and less important in the life sciences themselves?
• Anthropology of the Life Sciences. Recent years have seen a number of attempts to employ the empirical methods and the conceptual tools of social anthropology in the study of the life sciences, especially with respect to the effects of new reproductive technologies on conceptions of kinship and identity. Is there such a thing as an ‘anthropological approach’ to the life sciences, and if so, what could it look like? And is this indeed the field, as some of its protagonists claim, where historical, sociological, and philosophical studies of the life sciences could join hands to adequately reflect the complex, hybrid formations in which biological knowledge is produced today?
• Biology and Politics. From William Harvey’s theory of blood circulation to Rudolf Virchow’s cell theory, from Darwin’s theory of evolution to present day conceptions of the genome as ‘our common inheritance’ -- biological themes have always resonated with political ones. What is the impact that novel biological theories and practices have had on conceptions of human identity and agency, especially in the contested areas of sex/gender and race/ethnicity? And how do political agendas and contexts shape research in the life sciences?
• Systems Biology. Recent years have seen an upsurge of systemic approaches in biology that try to make sense of the vast amounts of data that have been accumulated by the genome sequencing projects and other data-gathering exercises. Systemic approaches have a long history in biology. But do their recent counterparts actually signal a return to a more holistic biology, or are we in fact witnessing the complete takeover of mechanism and reductionism in biology? And does systems biology raise new ethical, legal, and social challenges?
• Biology beyond the Evolutionary Synthesis. A lot of scholarly attention, especially in the philosophy of biology, has been invested into the interpretation and evaluation of evolutionary theory. Large areas in the biomedical sciences, however, are concerned with data collection or the elucidation of mechanisms and functions, activities that seem to gain little, if anything, from evolutionary speculations. Moreover, it becomes increasingly evident that the large majority of organisms, especially microorganisms, do not fit the standard model of speciation. How would a broader perspective on the life sciences affect our understanding of life?
The basic time unit for sessions will be 90 minutes; sessions encompassing two such units (but not more) are welcome, as long as there are at least five formal participants over the two sessions. We encourage innovative formats. If you are interested in proposing a session with an unusual format (e.g., with pre-circulated papers or requiring an unusual room format or special equipment), please contact us so we can make sure it is feasible.
If you have any ideas, questions, or suggestions, please contact the program officers. Email contact is strongly preferred, but if you do not have access to it, you may also send letters via regular mail. If you write by e-mail, please make sure to include the term ISHPSSB in your subject line.
ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society
University of Exeter
Byrne House, St German's Road
Exeter EX4 4RJ
Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science
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