Call for Papers: “Minority science” in the short 20th century: Imagining science from the margins of academia. 30-31 March 2023, Prague
When the roars of World War I went silent, the process of redrawing social, cultural, and geographic borders began. Gradually, continental empires seemed a thing of the past, and the idea of the national state seemed to have prevailed – even if overseas empires still remained strong. Socialism became a legitimate approach in academia, with various versions in different countries. Women were increasingly accepted as academics and researchers, a process proceeding at different speeds across the globe.
The process of redrawing and rethinking was obviously a slow one, with a wide geographical variety. In Central Europe, states born from empires were multicultural but not automatically open to scholars of other national identifications/loyalties. Czechoslovakia, home to Czech, Slovak, German, Ukrainian, Russian, and Jewish scholars, can be contrasted with Poland, where more Ukrainian scholars taught at clandestine institutions than at official ones. Other countries, like France or Great Britain, retained their colonies and followed policies of imperial othering. Depending on the country and political situation, Socialist scholars could be part of the academia or expelled from it due to their convictions (Horthy-Era Hungary or McCarthy-Era USA). In Socialist countries, on the contrary, liberal but also conservative scholars were excluded or at least othered.
While historians often look at these processes based on the binary exclusion versus inclusion, others have claimed that being an “other” can also be a privilege, allowing a more distant and critical perception of one’s surrounding society. Michel Foucault, Simone Weil, and Jacques Derrida are examples of scholars for whom the outsider position is more a blessing than a curse. A less prominent example is Stefan Baley (Stepan Balej), Polish-Ukrainian psychologist, the author of a number of publications on personality and science. “Minority,” “other,” or “otherness” are of course not innocent concepts, yet they are not set in stone either; they mix legality, ascription, self-perception, numbers, statistics, and individual biographies. Therefore, an integral part of our endeavour is to uncover how (academic) power relations are entangled with those in the society at large.
Our conference wants to look at how cultural outsiders, émigrés, refugees, and members of minorities imagined the sciences and their own position in them. We are interested in contributions discussing scholars who were (and/or regarded themselves as) outsiders/minorities on account of their cultural, gender, political or social identifications. Questions include, but are not limited to: