class="csc-frame csc-frame-default"Can knowledge be illustrated?

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

TOBIAS SCHEIDEGGER

Petite Science. Local knowledge production in natural history in Switzerland around 1900

Towards the end of the 19th century, one could witness a considerable boom of natural history research in several spheres outside of and in addition to universities and metropolitan natural history museums in Switzerland. Between institutions like small-town museums, high-schools and provincial natural history associations existed a network of specialized local researchers in botany, entomology or ornithology who constituted a lively milieu of knowledge production. This milieu is not properly characterized by labels as „amateur science“ or „low scientific culture“. Rather, this network of local researchers constituted a highly heterogenous field of knowledge where graduated natural history teachers collaborated with lawyers self-educated in botany and where country curates interacted with prestigious university professors.

The aim of my research is to outline the specific mechanisms and economies by which such networks were established and maintained. Further I want to depict characteristic research and material practices of this „petite science“ (specimen collecting and identification, excursions, small-scale surveys, or acculturation experiments) as well as to trace back the range of theoretical approaches of contemporary academic biology which were adapted by local researchers under circumstances of limited resources. Thus in my historical ethnography I want to portray this milieu of „petite science“ as a specific mode of scientific knowledge production beyond amateur science or popularized knowledge.