Join us for a Contagion Camerata -February 2nd, 2018

Local students have been working with Dr John Traill (University of Oxford) to compose musical pieces about science and medicine. For inspiration, the students attended the Contagion Cabaret at Oxford’s Curiosity Carnival in September.

Hear their compositions in a showcase at St Anne’s College in February. Details below.

2 February 2018
6:30 pm
Mary Ogilvie Lecture Theatre
St Anne’s College, Oxford

No booking required. Free entry.

 

 

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Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Hilary Term 2018

Galton Inquiries 1883

Our programme for Hilary Term 2018 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Tuesday 30 January 2018 (Week 3)

Professor Oliver Zimmer, University of Oxford

Time Tribes: How the Railways Made Communities (1840-1900)

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

When it comes to modern loyalties, scholars of various disciplines have predominantly looked at class, profession, region or nation. While these no doubt represent important sources of identity, in the long nineteenth century TIME emerged as a significant source of individual and collective self-definition. Increasingly, how people related to and made use of their own time marked out their actual and desired status. Time, that most elusive of matters, became instrumental for the making and unmaking of communities that sometimes transcended regional and national contexts. Much of this can be attributed to the railways and the temporal innovations they facilitated, above all standard time and railway timetables. This paper approaches the phenomenon in question – time tribes – through an investigation of British and German railway passengers.

 

Tuesday 13 February 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Ryan Sweet, University of Leeds

Normalcy Interrogated: Prosthetic Hand Users in Victorian Sensation-Fiction Narratives

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

The nineteenth century is often celebrated as a period of great innovation in artificial limbs. Not only did the century see tremendous developments in surgical practice, meaning that more amputees survived amputation and more survived with serviceable stumps able to support prosthetic limbs, but an attitude was also cultivated that increasingly privileged physical “normalcy”. As the concept of the “normal” body was constructed by contexts such as the emergence of bodily statistics, the growth of sciences that equated physical appearances with particular character traits, and changes in Poor Law legislation, it became more important than ever before for individuals to conceal bodily losses in order to avoid the stigma attached to physical difference. An emerging profession of prosthesis makers cashed in on both this growing consumer market and wider taste for physical “wholeness”—an explicit constituent of “normalcy”—by producing sophisticated artificial limbs designed to conceal limb loss (aesthetically and functionally). The products of the most successful of these limb makers, such as A. A. Marks and Frederick Gray, were celebrated by journalists and advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of such high spirits surrounding the achievements of artificial limbs, literary representations of prostheses tended to be more critical of both the efficacy of and logic underpinning such devices. Two examples of a texts that complicated the developing hegemony of physical “wholeness”—as well as the importance placed on concealing physical difference—were the sensation-fiction short stories “Lady Letitia’s Lilliput Hand” (1862) by Robert William Buchanan and “Prince Rupert’s Emerald Ring” (1895) by T. Lockhart. In this talk, I will argue that texts such as these challenged the status quo by presenting sensory critiques of hand prostheses and questioning the demand for them to enable users to “pass” as “normal”.

Tuesday 27 February 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Jana Funke, University of Exeter

‘Sexo-Aesthetic Inversion’: Transgender Subjectivities in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Literature and Science

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Much scholarship on the history of sexual science in relation to trans history has tended to focus on two related areas of sexological activity: the invention of diagnostic categories to produce fixed and stable identities, and the development of surgical and hormonal technologies to alter the physical appearance of trans bodies over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. As a result, sexual science is mainly remembered for implementing a medicalized framework that produced rigid diagnostic labels and put emphasis on the physical or somatic aspects of trans experience. This paper presents an alternative account of the relation between trans history and sexual science by focusing on a slightly earlier historical period, the decades between 1880 and 1920. At a time when surgical and hormonal interventions were not yet within immediate medical reach, understandings of what is nowadays described as trans identity emerged through sustained dialogue between scientific and literary writers who shared ideas concerning the role of Einfühlung (empathy), fantasy, dreams, the imagination and creativity in enabling an individual to experience and achieve cross-gender identification. Starting with British sexologist Havelock Ellis’s concept of ‘sexo-aesthetic inversion’ and Ellis’s exchange with modernist writer Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman) in the late 1910s, the paper works backwards to trace the intellectual roots of the scientific-literary framing of trans subjectivities. These include late nineteenth-century scientific studies of colour hearing, sense perception and aesthetics as well as works by literary authors like Olive Schreiner, Vernon Lee and William Sharp/Fiona Macleod to name but a few. Through its investigation of this earlier moment, the paper moves across the Victorian-Modernist divide to illuminate previously overlooked forms of exchange between literary and sexual scientific writings and to offer an alternative account of modern trans history.

 

UK DISABILITY HISTORY MONTH EVENT: WORK, TIME AND STRESS: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES

Thursday, November 23, 2017 –

1:00pm to 2:00pm
Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG
Seminar Room

Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Faculty of English Language and Literature) will look at discussions of stress and overwork in both education and professional life in the Victorian era, based on her research.  Although we are clearly living in a radically altered world, there are nonetheless startling similarities in the ways the problems of overwork have been framed and debated, then and now.

Dr Marie Tidball (Faculty of Law, Centre for Criminology and TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow) will talk about the ‘dynamic’ nature of disability and the impact that stresses of modern life have on its trajectories, employment and what people sometimes refer to as ‘disability time’. That is, the changed experience of time due to pain, anxiety and stress caused by an impairment or the impact an impairment has on the length of time it takes to do ‘activities of daily living’ which in turn affects the availability of time as a resource which has value, such as getting dressed takes longer for prosthetic limb wearer, the increased extent of email, and related issues for people’s energy levels and productivity. This has an interesting impact on the number of hours disabled people may have available or may be able to work and thus a factor affecting the disability pay gap.

The two talks will raise lots of ideas for discussion, including the impact of modern technologies in each period on the nature of work.

 

Registration is free and all welcome. Booking essential. Click here to register for your free ticket.

Please email torch@humanities.ox.ac.uk if you have any accessibility needs.

Lunch from 12.30pm. Talk from 1pm.

This event is part of UK Disability History Month 22 Nov-22 Dec.

Wisdom of the Crowd: Marcus du Sautoy at the Royal Society

Join us for our final project event!

Wisdom

The Wisdom of the Crowd – Marcus Du Sautoy at the Royal Society on November 29th at 6 PM

Where: At The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

Details: Join Professor Marcus du Sautoy OBE FRS for a night of interactive experiments exploring the power of crowds in answering certain numerical questions.

From guessing the weight of a cow or the number of sweets in a jar, there is evidence that the average of a crowd’s guesses can deliver surprisingly accurate results.

Professor du Sautoy will carry out a number of live interactive quizzes and experiments to test these ideas and look at how these principals can be harnessed for citizen science projects.

This event will be hosted in partnership with the University of Oxford as part of the AHRC’s Constructing Scientific Communities project. Visit conscicom.org to discover more.

Attending this event

This event will involve interactive elements – you will need a smartphone in order to participate
Free to attend
No registration required
Seats allocated on a first-come, first-served basis
Doors open at 6.00pm

Travel and accessibility information https://royalsociety.org/about-us/contact-us/carlton-house-terrace-london/

For all enquiries, please contact events@royalsociety.org

Pop Science! Lates Event at the Natural History Museum

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ConSciCom is taking over the NHM for one night!

FRIDAY, October 27th
18:00-22:00
Natural History Museum, London

Science is a cornerstone of modern society but sharing the work of scientists can often be a challenge.  At Pop science, we explore some of the different ways that science can be and has been shared with the world over the generations.  From television to poetry, animation to photography come and explore some of the ways that people have engaged with and explored science from early Victorian naturalists to the latest citizen science.

Featuring: poetry from Don Patterson, live animation with Sydney Padua, a magic lantern demonstration, live music, and more!

More details here.

 

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Michaelmas Term 2017

Our programme for Michaelmas Term 2017 is now announced with three seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

MTSeminar picture

Tuesday 24 October 2017 (Week 3)
Dr Helen Cowie, University of York
From the Andes to the Outback: Acclimatising Alpacas in the British Empire
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Abstract: This paper examines attempts to naturalise the alpaca in the British Empire. In the nineteenth century Britain made concerted efforts to appropriate useful plants and animals and acclimatise them within its own colonies. The alpaca was a prime target for acclimatisers on account of its silken wool, which was manufactured into a range of luxury textiles. Its export was, however, banned by law in Peru and Bolivia, so the animals had to be smuggled out of the Andean states and shipped illegally to Britain and Australia. The paper studies the circuits of exchange that facilitated the transfer of alpacas from one continent to another and considers how British subjects in places as diverse as Bradford, Liverpool, Sydney and Arequipa promoted and benefited from the naturalisation scheme. It situates alpaca acclimatisation within a wider discourse of agricultural ‘improvement’, bio-piracy and imperial adventure.

Tuesday 7 November 2017 (Week 5)
Professor Martin Willis, Cardiff University
The Good Places of Sleep: Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fictions and Sleep Research
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College
Abstract: We seem obsessed by the quality of our sleep in the early twenty-first century, yet the high point of sleep research was the second half of the nineteenth century, and particularly the period from 1880-1900, when modern sleep studies began. For the Victorians, sleep was an active state, (linked often to other cognitive pathologies and dissonances such as catalepsy and epilepsy) which enabled or disabled certain functions of mind and body. How one slept was therefore of considerable interest to the general public as well as to physiologists, physicians and neurologists. Concurrent with this avid attention to the epistemologies of sleep, utopian fictions employed sleep as a foundation for asking questions of ideal lives and worlds. Often, other worlds were entered through the medium of sleep. This seminar will consider the connections between sleep and utopia and ask whether sleep is itself a good place.
Tuesday 21 November (Week 7)
Professor Kirsten E Shepherd-Barr, University of Oxford
Infectious Ideas: Mechanisms of Transmission in the 19th Century
5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College
Abstract: This paper explores the semantic instability of the term “contagion” in the nineteenth century as refracted through theatre and performance, with key examples as case studies. I’ll look at 19th-century theatrical engagements with evolution, biology, and other related sciences, to show theatre’s preoccupation with mechanisms of transmission broadly conceived—from imaginative versions of heredity (including telegony in Ibsen and Strindberg, for instance) to breastfeeding on stage in Herne and Brieux to the “contagious” theatricality at the heart of Charlotte Mew’s short story “A White Night.” These and other examples can help us think about how and when the line began to blur between a strictly medical definition of contagion and a fuzzier “social disease” usage, onto which theatre cottoned very early on. I will then trace the powerful legacy of these theatrical engagements with contagion, looking first at how Artaud radically extends earlier metaphoric uses of contagion into his immersive, experiential “plague” and finally exploring the present day in which virtual contagion games allow the user to “perform” plagues and pandemics. A unifying thread running through all of these examples is how contagion relates to definitions of culture (e.g. Greenblatt, Foucault) founded, paradoxically, on containment and control. Finally, I will explore briefly how all of this relates to the wider issue of how to forge productive disciplinary cross-contaminations in a professional environment that increasingly regulates, directs, and manages trans- or interdisciplinarity.

Contagion Cabaret

Wednesday 27 September, 7.45pm The Chipping Norton Theatre

A unique collaboration between The Theatre Chipping Norton and Oxford University

Girl In Gas Masks Holds a Red Ballon

Image: iStock.com/WilliamSherman

Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As disease spreads through a culture, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media.

Dreamt up in the plague-ridden imagination of the Theatre’s Artistic Director John Terry, join a cast of familiar faces including Marcus D’Amico (Frankie and Johnny) and Anna Tolputt (Around the World in 80 Days), alongside scientists and literary researchers from Oxford University for an evening of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present. Be sure to bring your antiseptic wipes!

For more information and to book tickets see http://www.chippingnortontheatre.com/index.php?p=whatson&id=3601

 

The Contagion Cabaret, Oxfordshire Science Festival

The Contagion Cabaret: a quirky theatrical evening of drama, discussion and disease

Tuesday 20 June 2017, 7.30 – 10pm

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford 

Image: iStock.com/WilliamSherman

The Constructing Scientific Communities and Diseases of Modern Life projects are taking part in the Oxfordshire Science Festival with The Contagion Cabaret  at the Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ.

Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As diseases spread through a population, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media. Join a cast of actors, scientists and literary researchers for an inventive illustration of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present.

The event is free but booking is required via Eventbrite.

Please note that the doors to the Museum will open at 7.15pm and the talk begins promptly at 7.30pm. Late arrivals cannot be guaranteed entry. This event is suitable for ages 14+

Sally Shuttleworth is Professor of English Literature looking at the inter-relations between literature and science, including the project Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives.

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr is Professor of English and Theatre Studies, interested in the relationship between modernism, science and theatrical performance.

John Terry is Artistic Director of Chipping Norton Theatre known for ambitious and adventurous theatre work, usually script based but with a strong visual and physical tilt.

 

 

 

The Material Culture of Citizen Science: Workshop Friday 12 May at St Anne’s College

The Material Culture of Citizen Science

Friday 12 May 2017

9.00 – 5.30

Seminar Room 8

St Anne’s College, Oxford

In recent years, citizen science has flourished in and out of the academy. Across the globe, via projects such as   Zooniverse, socially and intellectually-engaged members of the public contribute in crucial ways to the making of new scientific knowledge. Within academic discourse, scholars have embraced the term “citizen science” as a   heuristic analytical tool for thinking about activity both past and present.  Thus far, historical scholarship on citizen   science has tended to focus on people and institutions. This workshop extends the current conversation by  examining and reflecting upon the technologies and materials that have enabled citizen science to flourish. What are the practical means that fostered the break down of the divisions between professional and non-professional    science? What kinds of technologies and materials can be identified, and how did they shape the interactions among participants and thus, the production, circulation and use of scientific knowledge, in the digital age and before? Citizen Science practitioners, researchers from the Oxford-based project ‘Constructing Scientific  Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’, and  members of the Max Planck working group “Working With Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge” will discuss these questions in historical perspective.  In particular, our conversations will concentrate on the use of paper as a central means to mediate between  seemingly divergent actors and spaces and those digital technologies that have replaced it.

Programme: The workshop programme is available here 

Registration: This is a closed workshop, but a limited number of free places are available to book. If you would like to book a place, please contact Alyson Slade on alyson.slade@ell.ox.ac.uk no later than 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday 3 May 2017 who will then confirm the place. Please also indicate if there are any dietary requirements.