[Call for Papers] Situated Nature: Field collecting practices and the construction of scientific locality in the long nineteenth-century (Deadline: 25 June 2020)

9 juni 2020

Field collecting is a political gesture. Sampling nature is a combined result of specific gestures of the hand, the use of dedicated tools, a reliance on intermediaries, on-site negotiations of natural history knowledge, and the mobilisation of agencies that are not neutral. The context of nation and empire building in the nineteenth century paralleled a soaring accumulation of natural objects supporting naturalist trade and both private and institutional collections. Practices of field collecting resonated with social and political stakes that were intertwined with matters of appropriation of the land and the environment. In the nineteenth century, experience of the field was key in the legitimation of science, and we propose a close-up approach of outdoor practices of collecting in order to better understand the localised, and situated, production of knowledge about nature.

Twenty-five years after the publication of a special issue on “Science in the field” (Kuklick and Kohler, 1996) in Osiris, we intend to cast new light on the matter of field collecting of nature. We feel there is ample space for a new interrogation on the implications of the act of gathering a specimen, and we believe that issues of sourcing for intermediaries and prospect localities of collation, processes and logistics of transportation and conservation of specimens, as well as issues of the personal agendas behind collecting can benefit from the comparative approach between diverse case studies that a special issue can provide.

Our proposal on the topic of “Situated Nature: Field collecting practices and the construction of scientific locality in the long nineteenth-century,” follows the organisation of panels and workshops on the topic of Nineteenth-Century Practices of Collecting Nature, and will result in a submission for the open call of the British Journal for the History of Science – Themes for the 2022 issue. We are looking for researchers who investigate natural history collections in the long nineteenth-century and whose interest may fall within one or more of the following thematic and historiographical parameters:

  • Manual labour, instructions, and logistics: collecting and collating in the field required informants, boxes and glass containers, insect pins as well as rifles. Specialized tools and recipes for preserving specimens were either transported to the field or improvised on site;
  • Sociability, hierarchies, and identities: collecting was carried out by professional and non-professional practitioners whose individual lives, agendas and interests provide noteworthy case-studies. Issues of class, gender, race, authority, and identity were frequently a function of natural history exchanges, and we want to show the widest range possible of cases in different political, national, imperial, and professional settings;
  • Receipts, registration, and organisation of natural data: In order to address these issues a diversity of sources is needed and we are looking for contributions that emphasise original types of manuscript sources and that highlight the role of paper technologies within the processes of collection, preparation in the field, and shipment of specimens;
  • Sites and environments of collecting nature: geographical space is not a backdrop to collecting, but rather influences locally produced knowledge, interactions with local people and infrastructure, as well as the constraints of placement and displacement of samples of nature and natural resources. The selection of favourite sites and their production as standard environmental settings played an important role in the creation of scientific models of nature.


Prospective contributors are welcome to contact editors Déborah Dubald and Catarina Madruga with any enquiries regarding this project via email at deborah.dubald@eui.eu and cmmadruga@gmail.com.

To apply, please submit an abstract of max. 300 words and a short biography of max. 100 words to the editors by email by 25 June 2020. Replies will be sent in early July 2020.

PDF here: https://www.academia.edu/43263635/_Situated_Nature_Call_for_Papers_for_collective_thematic_issue?source=swp_share


Useful information about the project

Selected authors will be invited to take part in a preparatory meeting to be set up between 1-10 July 2020. If our proposal to BJHS-Themes is accepted in August 2020, the planned schedule is that original papers in British English of max. 10,000 words are submitted by January 2021, for the peer review process and final drafts will be submitted by November 2021 for publication in the summer of 2022.

Collaborative work is important to us, and in a later stage we encourage all contributors to share their work within the group of editors and authors for general feedback and precisions, as well as to achieve the best possible cohesion of narrative across the issue.

BJHS Themes specialises in the publication of thematic issues and all papers are published in Open Access under a Creative Commons licence. The version of the Creative Commons licence used for publication is the choice of the author, from a selection of three: CC-BY, CC-BY-NC-SA or CC-BY-NC-ND. For further information see this page. We also alert possible contributors that they should guarantee image rights of diffusion for any images used in the finished article.