Informal Cultures of Knowledge in Non- Institutional Spaces in the Long Nineteenth-Century
We are seeking collaborators for the establishment of an international, interdisciplinary virtual reading group on “Informal Cultures of Knowledge in Non-Institutional Spaces in the Long Nineteenth-Century”
Working from the assumption that spatial environments shape social behaviors and thus enable specific interactions, and conversations, this reading group will explore transient, (semi)private, or disreputable spaces (the private home in general, the boudoir, the salon, the waiting room, the ship, the artist studio, the club, the fair, or circus … ) and their specific ties to knowledge creation and transmission not available elsewhere (insider knowledge, gossip, rumor, embodied knowledge – for instance, how to play an instrument, or how to act or dance –, the pseudoscientific …). What characterizes these in-between spaces? Does knowledge transmission in these non-institutional spaces differ from that in institutional ones, and if so, in what ways? For some of these liminal spaces (for instance, salons), the concept of heterotopia developed by Michel Foucault is suitable as a thought model. It describes places that have only partially implemented the norms given at a given time, or function according to their own rules, thus reflecting social relations by representing or negating them. But what does this in turn say about the character and quality of the knowledge that circulates in these places? And how could we go about determining what knowledge is gained where and how? What are the methods to study informal knowledge? On which sources can we draw? To address these questions (and to develop new ones), we will discuss selected current scholarship as well as primary texts (texts broadly defined) from the long nineteenth century.
The reading group is designed to connect researchers across disciplines, institutions, and career stages with a shared interest in the intersections of spaces and knowledge beyond and outside of established institutions and codified expertise. Our focus will be on the long nineteenth century in a global perspective. We are particularly interested in exploring the role of gender, race, and class on the spatial experience of historical agents and their epistemic agency.