History and Theory (inactive)

The History and Theory Working Group focuses on theoretical and methodological issues such as philosophy of history, historical research, interpretation, and narrative—not necessarily confined to the history of science. The working group meets monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss readings that are of particular interest to participants.

Meetings are usually held at the Consortium offices in Philadelphia from 3:30 to 5:00 on second Fridays. Scholars located anywhere can also participate online.

To join this working group, click "Request group membership" at right. You will receive instructions for participating online or in person.

Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user

Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to conduct@chstm.org.

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • May 11, 2018

    This meeting has been postponed until the fall. We look forward to seeing you then!

  • April 13, 2018

    Banu Subramaniam, Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014,) Part II, "Geneaologies of Variation: the Case of Morning Glory Flowers" (pp. 95-158.) Continuing discussion of questions raised about Part I: 

    • We talked quite a bit about "Singing the Morning Glory Blues," the utopian "fictional science" narrative in Chapter 3. It will be interesting to compare the shiningly resolved Saraswati Institute to the collaborative scientific experiment that Subramaniam reports on in Part II.
    • Many parallels struck us between Subramaniam and Tsing: the careful use of storytelling as method, multispecies/ naturecultural narratives, ghosts and hauntings, and the search for optimism amidst destruction.
    • Subramaniam, like Tsing, is attached to optimism. We wonder about how optimism works here. Is this "feminist reconstructive project" plausible (and does it need to be?)
    • Given that even seemingly hopeful, positive visions of diversity and variation (like Dobzhansky's, or George Ball's in Part II) are caught up in the same eugenic script, where are the spaces for reconstruction?
    • Ghosts of bloody and violent victims of eugenics, haunting a field of morning glories. These ghosts recall Tsing's hauntings, and yet they are very different. Does Tsing's materialism make the difference?
    • Subramaniam describes forms of recursion on multiple scales: in the history of evolutionary biology, in the transit of 'eugenic scripts' to and from science and politics, in the design of biological experiments (shaped by and reinforcing these same scripts,) and in her biography as a feminist scientist and scholar. The same scripts haunt each of these stories. What about scale? Where does the recursive loop start and stop? 

  • March 9, 2018

    Chapters from Banu Subramaniam, Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity (University of Illinois Press, 2014): Preface/Introduction and Chapters 1-3, through p.91. The material is varied in style, method and content: we invite you to attach to the chapter(s) that resonate with you. We look forward to our discussion!
    Abstract: "In a stimulating interchange between feminist studies and biology, Banu Subramaniam explored how her dissertation on flower color variation in morning glories launched her on an intellectual odyssey that engaged the feminist studies of sciences in the experimental practices of science by tracing the central and critical idea of variation in biology.Subramaniam revealed the histories of eugenics and genetics and their impact on the metaphorical understandings of difference and diversity that permeate common understandings of differences among people exist in contexts that seem distant from the so-called objective hard sciences. Journeying into interdisciplinary areas that range from the social history of plants to speculative fiction, Subramaniam uncovers key relationships between the life sciences, women's studies, evolutionary and invasive biology, and the history of ecology, and how ideas of diversity and difference emerged and persist in each field."

  • February 9, 2018

    We discussed the Introduction and Chapter 5 ("Leaks") of Nikhil Anand, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai (Duke University Press, 2017).
    The Introduction can be found on the Duke UP website, https://www.dukeupress.edu/Assets/PubMaterials/978-0-8223-6269-2_601.pdf
    An early version of Chapter 5 (published in Public Culture 2015, 27(2): 305-330. can be found here: https://www.sas.upenn.edu/anthropology/sites/www.sas.upenn.edu.anthropol...
    For further interest, see a series of videos on water in Mumbai, produced by Anand and a Mumbai collective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3P9ePmfDk0&index=4&list=PLC85C8B62BEBFC6FD

  • January 19, 2018

    Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton UP, 2015.) Focusing on pp. 131-144, 155-163 and 205-225. 

  • December 8, 2017

    Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton UP, 2015.) Chapters 1-6, through p.121.

  • November 7, 2017

    Note Special Day and Time
    James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), Chapters 4, 6, 6.5, 7 and Conclusion.
    We continued conversations around anti-stadial theories of history, shatter zones, friction, political agency and the objects of history, capture, enclosure, fugitivity and refuge. And whether eating roots is more fun than growing grain.
    For those who were unable to join us for discussion of the first chapters, you can catch up on essential points in this 20 -minute recording, in which Scott discusses his thesis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVwrUsib4vU.

  • October 13, 2017

    James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 1-97. If you are pressed for time, we will focus on the Introduction and Chapter 3.
    As a supplement, you may find useful this 20-minute discussion of the book produced by Yale University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVwrUsib4vU

  • May 2, 2017

    Povinelli, Elizabeth A. Geontologies:  A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. Chapters 1 & 2.


  • April 4, 2017

    Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016): 1-8, 30-57, 99-103.


Group Conveners


223 Members