Interdisciplinary Histories Conference, 13th & 14th February 2017

The conference keynote speakers Dr Des Fitzgerald (Cardiff University) and Professor Felicity Callard (Durham University) spoke on “Power and Affect in Interdisciplinary Space”

The first Rethinking Sexology conference examined dynamics of interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration from a historical perspective. It asked what can be gained by exploring moments, sites and traditions of dialogue across disciplines, fields of knowledge and forms of expertise in the past.

Chris Manias (History, KCL) spoke on Histories of Palaeontology: Researching and Communicating between Disciplines”

One particular area of interest of the conference was late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sexual science: Western European sexual scientists, including those with medical training, articulated an inclusive vision for sexual science that involved diverse fields like anthropology, biology, history, literature, psychology, sociology and zoology.

Robbie Duschinsky (Primary Care Unit, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge) gave a paper on “Reappraising Infant Disorganised Attachment and ‘Fear Without Solution’: A Conversation Between History, Sociology and Social Work”

The conference also aimed to move beyond sexual science to consider alternative perspectives on how boundaries between areas of knowledge and expertise have been constituted, crossed and contested across history and to understand shifting definitions of terms like ‘science’ or ‘discipline’. It offered an opportunity for dialogue between scholars situated within and across (or outside of) a variety of disciplines and fields.

Sarah Bull (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge) and Will Abberley (English, University of Sussex) shared a panel on “Nature and the Production of Knowledge”

Andreas Sommer (History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge) spoke on “Sexology and the Occult: A Career in Taboos. The Case of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing”

At the conference, we considered questions about interdisciplinary working, including:

  • How has exchange across disciplines, fields and areas of knowledge changed and shifted across e.g. cultural, historical, linguistic and national borders? How does this relate to changing definitions and understandings of ‘science’?
  • What methodologies can we use to understand exchange and collaboration across disciplines and fields in the past and present?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of writing ‘disciplinary’ histories?
  • Can historical perspectives on exchange and dialogue in the past inform collaborative working practices today? How?
  • What can we learn about our own disciplinary mindsets and methodologies by studying their emergence and intersection with other disciplines and fields in the past

Donna Drucker (Technische Universität Darmstadt) spoke on”Developing American Sexual Science in Early Twentieth-Century New York”

Download the full conference programme here. 

This was a Wellcome Trust-funded Conference, Hosted by the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter.

For more details please contact the organisers, Professor Kate Fisher and Dr Jana Funke.

Photos by TJ Zawadzki.