CFP: ‘The Body and Pseudoscience in the Long Nineteenth Century’, Newcastle

Newcastle University

Saturday 18th June 2016

‘Sciences we now retrospectively regard as heterodox or marginal cannot be considered unambiguously to have held that status at a time when no clear orthodoxy existed that could confer that status upon them’ (Alison Winter, 1997). The nineteenth century witnessed the drive to consolidate discrete scientific disciplines, many of which were concerned with the body. Attempts were made to clarify the boundaries between the ‘scientific’ and the ‘pseudoscientific’, between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. This conference asks what became lost in separating the orthodox from the heterodox. What happened to the systems of knowledge and practice relating to the body that were marginalised as ‘pseudoscience’? Was knowledge and insight into the human condition lost in the process? Or is it immortalised within the literature of ‘pseudoscience’?

This interdisciplinary conference considers how different discourses of the body were imagined and articulated across a range of visual and verbal texts (including journalism, fiction, popular science writing, illustration) in order to evaluate how ‘pseudoscience’ contributed both to understandings of the body and what it is to be human and to the formation of those disciplines now deemed orthodox.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Acting on the body – the body as a site of experimentation and scientific contestation
  • Pseudoscience and the gendered body
  • The entranced body as the conduit for knowledge of the self
  • The ‘scientifically’ prescribed body – an attempt to rationalise the irrational?
  • ‘Pseudoscience’ and the speculative nature of ‘science’
  • Scientific disciplines – a move towards self-authentication and professionalization or a loss of universal truth?
  • Pseudoscience and abnormality
  • The discourse of gender in the séance room
  • Visual interpretations of the ‘pseudoscientific’
  • Victorian periodicals / popular science journals and ‘pseudoscience’ of the body
  • Reading the body – fiction immortalising the pseudoscientific
  • The attraction of the ‘pseudoscientific’ for C19 poets and novelists
  • Visual interpretations of the ‘pseudoscientific’

Please email a 250 to 300 word abstract, together with a brief biography, by 31st January 2016.

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