CFP: Being Modern: Science and Culture in the early 20th century (London 22-24 April 2015)

Being Modern: Science and Culture in the early 20th century

Institute of Historical Research, London 22-24 April 2015

Engagement with science was commonly used as an emblem of “Being modern”, across culture in Britain and the western world in the years around the First World War. Electricity, the wireless and the aeroplane as well as new theories — not just of physics but also psychoanalysis — were associated in the public mind with exciting, and sometimes threatening, developments. The associations were not always positive, relativity and quantum theories put understanding of natural phenomena beyond common sense, while the wartime use of poison gas was, for many, an emblem of how scientific knowledge was outstripping the ethical and political apparatus needed to manage it well. This conference will be held on the exact centenary of the first use of poison gas on the Western Front.
Today, historical studies of literature, art, design, lifestyle and consumption as well as of the human sciences are exploring intensively, but frequently separately, on that talk of “science”. Historians of science are exploring the interpenetration of discourse in the public sphere and expert communities. This pioneering interdisciplinary conference is therefore planned to bring together people who do not normally meet in the same space. Scholars from a range of disciplines will come together to explore how the complex interpretations of science affected the re-creation of what it was to be modern.
The focus will be on Britain, but this will be neither exclusive nor parochial. There will be just one strand and participants will be encouraged to take part in the entire three day conference.
Authors of appropriate papers will be invited to develop their presentations to 7000 word manuscripts, to be included in a substantial illustrated collective volume to be published by UCL press, subject to the normal conditions of peer review.

Confirmed speakers include:

Tim Armstrong, Mitchell Ash, Tim Benton, Rachel Bowlby, Christopher Breward, Robert Bud, Craig Gordon, Paul Greenhalgh, Jeff Hughes, Frank James, Esther Leslie, Judy Loach, David Matless, Ruth Oldenziel, Katy Price, Lew Pyenson, Morag Shiach, Daniel Todman, Michael Whitworth and Jonathan Woodham.
The conference is now seeking proposals for further papers and posters.
The topics may be wide ranging. They might deal with – for example – music, archaeology or the new humanism. Proposals drawing on practice-based research are welcomed.
Four types of presentation and discussion are planned:

  1. disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion
  2. cross-disciplinary panels of three x15 minute papers and discussion
  3. Focus on research presentations of 5 minutes plus two minute discussion each will provide opportunities particularly for graduate students
  4. Poster sessions.
Proposals either for entire sessions (from named scholars), individual presentations or posters are invited.
Please send your proposal of around 300 words and affiliation and job title to by 19 October 2014

Organising committee: Robert Bud, Paul Greenhalgh, Frank James, Morag Shiach, Dan Todman

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