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Translating the Concept of Experiment in the Late Eighteenth Century

From the English Philosophical Context to the Greek-Speaking Regions of the Ottoman Empire

Eirini Goudarouli and Dimitris Petakos

dependence of such changes on cultural and historical contexts. Paradoxically, however, such scholarship in the history of political and social concepts and conceptual history has not yet been widely noticed in the history of science. 1 In what follows, we

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Rivka Feldhay and Gal Hertz

In this article, we offer a broad view of “knowledge in motion” based on our collaborative work and experience at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University. We first present our reflections through a short case study concerned with the perception of sunspots through the telescope and their alternative conceptualizations by agents with different research agendas. We then present our theoretical reflections on “migrating knowledge” and summarize a few research projects done in our center that may throw further light on our socio-epistemic framework. Finally, we articulate some of our suggestions for mobility studies in order to engage them with the kind of questions we have been concerned with for quite some time now.

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Nomadic Concepts

Biological Concepts and Their Careers beyond Biology

Jan Surman, Katalin Stráner, and Peter Haslinger

This article introduces a collection of studies of biological concepts crossing over to other disciplines and nonscholarly discourses. The introduction discusses the notion of nomadic concepts as introduced by Isabelle Stengers and explores its usability for conceptual history. Compared to traveling (Mieke Bal) and interdisciplinary (Ernst Müller) concepts, the idea of nomadism shifts the attention from concepts themselves toward the mobility of a concept and its effects. The metaphor of nomadism, as outlined in the introduction, helps also to question the relation between concepts' movement and the production of boundaries. In this way conceptual history can profit from interaction with translation studies, where similar processes were recently discussed under the notion of cultural translation.

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A Focus on the History of Concepts

Eirini Goudarouli

” that took place at the Interuniversity Centre for the History of Science and Technology (CIUHCT) in Lisbon, Portugal. The initial idea of publishing the following articles together arose within the supportive environment of that meeting. The three

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Because Antelope Can't Talk

Natural Agency and Social Politics in American Environmental History

John Herron

This essay examines the origins and development of American environmental history. Emerging from the political contests of the 1960s, environmental history attempts to add a natural dimension to more traditional social and political histories. For many observers, nature remains the picturesque backdrop to human a airs, yet environmental historians endeavor to show how the non-human world influences American life. With special attention paid to the question of natural agency, this essay investigates how debates over the ability of nature to "act" impacts both the direction and acceptance of their field.

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Configurations of Plague

Spatial Diagrams in Early Epidemiology

Lukas Engelmann

Diagrams are found at the heart of the modern history of epidemiology. Epidemiologists used spatial diagrams to visualize concepts of epidemics as arrangements of biological, environmental, historical, as well as social factors and to analyze epidemics as configurations. Often, they provided a representation of the networks of relationships implied by epidemics, rather than to offer conclusions about origin and causation. This article will look at two spatial diagrams of plague across a period in which an epidemiological way of reasoning stood in stark contrast to arguments provided about plague in the rising field of bacteriology and experimental medicine. This historical genealogy of epidemiologists working with diagrams challenges perceptions of epidemic diagrams as mere arguments of causality to emphasize diagrammatic notions of uncertainty, crisis, and invisibility.

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Vectoral Fieldsites

Scales of Social Observation and Transformation in Development-Era Senegal

Noémi Tousignant


The Niakhar area of West-Central Senegal has hosted regular demographic data collection as well as health and social scientific research since the 1960s. In this article, I approach Niakhar's long history of research as a window into changing relations between knowledge production and modes (and scales) of government. Through close examination of three studies conducted between 1962 and 1974, I seek in particular to capture how the utopian impulses of postcolonial national development in Senegal created epistemological opportunities and frames of meaning for social scientific research. While this development ideology was utopian in the general sense of its transformative ambitions, it was also utopian in a more specifically spatial sense, in that Senegal had to be transformed into ‘another place’ to break the hold of the colonial political economy and release the full potential of the nation. Social scientists evoked this emerging national territory to make claims for what I call a vectoral relation between the subjects and spaces they produced through research and those the state would generate through planning, surveying and intervention. I contrast this vectoral spatiality with the scalar claims made for post-developmental uses of Niakhar as a site of experimental and longitudinal research.

La zone de Niakhar, dans le centre-ouest du Sénégal, accueille depuis les années 1960 une collecte régulière de données démographiques ainsi que des recherches en sciences médicales et sociales. Dans cet article, j'aborde la longue histoire de la recherche à Niakhar comme une fenêtre sur les relations changeantes entre la production de connaissances et les modes (et échelles) de gouvernement. En examinant de près trois études menées entre 1962 et 1974, je cherche en particulier à saisir comment les impulsions utopiques du développement national postcolonial au Sénégal ont créé des opportunités épistémologiques et des cadres de signification pour la recherche en sciences sociales. Si cette idéologie du développement était utopique au sens général de ses ambitions transformatrices, elle l'était aussi dans un sens plus spécifiquement spatial, en ce sens que le Sénégal devait être transformé en un « autre lieu » pour briser l'emprise de l'économie politique coloniale et libérer le plein potentiel de la nation. Les chercheurs en sciences sociales évoquaient ce territoire national émergent pour revendiquer ce que j'appelle une relation vectorielle entre les sujets et les espaces qu'ils produisaient par la recherche et ceux que l'État générerait par la planification, les enquêtes et l'intervention. Je contraste cette spatialité vectorielle avec les revendications scalaires faites pour des utilisations post-développementales de Niakhar en tant que site de recherche expérimentale et longitudinale.

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Lucy Baker, Paola Castañeda, Matthew Dalstrom, Ankur Datta, Tanja Joelsson, Mario Jordi-Sánchez, Jennifer Lynn Kelly, and Dhan Zunino Singh

: questions that listen for what is erased. The Global Movement of Science and Technology A Bridge between STS and Mobility Studies John Krige, ed., How Knowledge Moves: Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology (Chicago: The

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Like a Tumbleweed in Eden

The Diasporic Lives of Concepts

Banu Subramaniam


People, plants, and animals travel; so do theories, ideas, and concepts. Concepts migrate across disciplines—from the sciences to the humanities and back—often repurposed to theorize new objects in new contexts. Many terms span species and disciplines, from human contexts in ethnic studies, post/colonial studies to scientific/biological terminology: native, alien, local, foreign, colonizer, colonized, naturalized, pioneer, refugee, founder, resident. In this article, I explore concepts around mobility and “migration” and how the values and political contexts accompanying these concepts circulate across geopolitical and scientific terrains. In extending theories of migration to examining the history of science, I explore the migrations and diasporic lives of concepts.

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Pamela H. Smith

A research group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science on “Itineraries of Materials, Recipes, Techniques, and Knowledge in the Early Modern World” held a series of workshops (2014–2015) on the movement of knowledge (materials, techniques, objects) across Eurasia, resulting in an edited volume. Participants articulated a framework of “entangled itineraries,” “material complexes,” and “nodes of convergence” by which historians might follow routes of knowledge-making extending over very long distances and/or great spans of time. The key concepts are (1) “material complex” denoting the constellation of substances, practices, techniques, beliefs, and values that accrete as knowledge around materials; (2) the “relational field,” the social, intellectual, economic, emotional domain formed by a “node of convergence”—often a hub of trade and exchange—within which a material complex crystalizes; and (3) “itineraries,” or the routes taken by materials through which they stabilize and/ or transform.