Monday, March 9, 2015 - 12:15pm to 2:00pm
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Room 100F, Pierce Hall, 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge

STS Circle at Harvard

Geert Somsen (Columbia/Maastricht, History), "'Science and World Order': Uses of Science in Plans for International Government, 1899-1950"

Sandwich lunches are provided. Please RSVP to by Wednesday at 5PM the week before.

Abstract: The universal character of science has often been used as a model for international relations. This was true already in the early-modern ideal of the Republic of Letters, where the community of the learned presented itself as elevated above the rivalries of nations. And it continued in the twentieth century, when similar notions made their way into the design of political international institutions, such as UNESCO, the League of Nations, and the International Court of Arbitration. In my current project I study a variety of such schemes ranging across the political spectrum. I will discuss a few of them (probably H.G. Wells’ World State campaign, a plan for science and arbitration, and the mobilization of “scienza universale” in fascist Italy) and try to situate my kind of research within the widely differing ways in which STS has analyzed the relations of science to political practice and ideology.
Biography: Geert Somsen is Marie Curie fellow at Columbia University’s Department of History, for 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was trained in history of science and STS at Utrecht University and the University of California, San Diego. His research deals with uses of science in political discourse, for example in the shaping of international relations, the subject of his STS Circle presentation. He has also worked on uses of science in British WWII propaganda, on the promotion of “scientific planning” as a postwar policy instrument, and on science in representations of political neutrality (Neutrality in Twentieth-Century Europe: Intersections of  Science, Culture and Politics after the First World War. London: Routledge, 2012, edited with Rebecka Lettevall and Sven Widmalm). Geert Somsen is on leave from Maastricht University, the Netherlands, where he is a member of the STS program and the history department, and was, until recently, coordinator of the Netherlands Graduate Research School for Science, Technology and Modern Culture.

Contact Name: 

Shana Rabinowich

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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