International Congress on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Albrecht von Haller’s birth (1708-1777)
Bern (Switzerland), Tuesday, October 14, 2008 – Friday, October 17, 2008
Knowledge has become a central category in describing modern society. The development of knowledge is interdependent with changes in society, economy and culture. In this development, it is not only the substance matter of knowledge that is revised and recreated; it is entire cultures of knowledge that change. Traditional ways of organizing thought are joined by new ideologies and methods. The production of knowledge takes place within a wide range of diverse institutional, social and political contexts.
This congress addresses the complexities of the culture of knowledge, focussing on the scholar or savant as its main actors. It asks how, and to what end, savants in the 18th century collated, produced, critiqued, propagated, diffused and applied knowledge. What is the role of scholars, what is the self-image they communicate, and how are they perceived by others?
Being at the same time a poet and a savant, a collector, experimenter, encyclopaedist, researcher, university professor, magistrate, guild president, correspondent, distinguished author, feared reviewer, modern scientist and orthodox Christian, Haller can be seen as paradigmatic with respect to the developments and problem areas of the culture of knowledge of the 18th century. The Bernese polymath will thus be of special interest to the symposium, yet he is not its central topic: rather, it is the 300th anniversary of his birth that is taken as an occasion to engage with the practice of knowledge and the figure of the scholar at the time.
The symposium will focus on the following six issues:
1. Rising and advancing: the social topography of savants – who they are, where they are, their careers, prestige, success, patrons and servants in the Republic of Letters etc.
2. Reading and judging: ways of reading and acquiring knowledge, the savant as a critical authority, scholarly reviewing etc.
3. Printing and communicating: strategies of imparting and propagating knowledge, the exchange of knowledge within and outside the academic world etc.
4. Observing and experimenting: practical research, compilation, theory and experiment, working in laboratories, the academic world, the scholar’s chamber etc.
5. Advising and serving: the savant in service to the state, as consultant and as civil servant, as citizen and as magistrate etc.
6. Perceiving and reacting: the savant’s interactions with the tendencies of his time (pietism, enlightenment, patriotism/republicanism etc.) – which of those does he perceive, which does he blank out, how does he become involved etc.
For a detailed programme see http://www.haller300.ch/conferences.html
The papers should be a maximum of 25 minutes and must relate to one of the six topics. They can be based on an individual scholar, but rather than looking at this scholar in isolation they need to situate him or her in a broader context and address a more general question. The organizers bear the costs for travel, board and lodging of the invited speakers. The congress languages are English, German and French.
Please submit your abstracts (max. 2 pages) by January 31, 2008 to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Congress is hosted by the Institute of History and the Institute of History of Medicine of the University of Bern, in cooperation with the Swiss Society for 18th-Century Studies, the Swiss Society for the History of Medicine and Natural Sciences, the Naturforschende Gesellschaft in Bern and the Swiss Academy of Sciences.
Organizers: André Holenstein, Hubert Steinke, Martin Stuber
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