CFP: "Scientific Families: Migration, Networks, and Reproduction" - Special issue for "Science as Culture" - Deadline: January 31, 2012

Science as Culture

Call for papers for a special issue on

Scientific Families: Migration, Networks, and Reproduction

Guest editors: Staffan Bergwik, Helena Pettersson, Sven Widmalm

The “scientific life” is – sociologically, historically, and philosophically – a more complex and challenging concept than the biographical idea of a “scientist’s life”. As historian Steven Shapin, more than anyone else, has shown, it is analytically useful to view knowledge production in the light of sociocultural categories like virtue, identity, or embodiment. The epistemological authority of science is closely connected with the moral and civic legitimacy of scientific forms of life, as they are practiced and perceived in various cultural and historic settings. Changes in scientific forms of life and in the scientist’s public persona indicate changes also on the epistemological level of science. This special issue will investigate the ramifications of one significant aspect of the scientific life, namely that of family and kinship.

Our point of departure is that family and kinship relations are not “external” to knowledge production but rather a condition for and a consequence of academic research. Changes on the level of family structure and family norms are correlated with changes in scientific practice and epistemology. One image of the scientist is that of the respected patriarch, surrounded by his family. The gentleman scientist Charles Darwin comes to mind, and he is one of few examples where the study of family life and scientific work has been thoroughly integrated. Occasionally, research has had the character of a family business, in most cases with the husband representing the family’s collective work “front stage” and with wives, sisters or children performing exhausting observation work and tedious calculations “backstage”. Private homes have often been nodes for producing shared worldviews and accumulating scientific power. Examples include the Curie, Bragg and Siegbahn families where several members were Nobel laureates. With the eugenic movement’s emphasis, around 1900, on the importance of the procreation of the intellectually gifted (within a thoroughly patriarchal framework), the scientific family was in itself elevated to the position of social ideal.

As women made inroads into professional research, husband and wife teams (“creative couples”) became more common, representing a socially progressive model for family life in general. At the same time there has, in the venerable monastic and ascetic traditions, been a tendency to see the “traditional” family as being incompatible with creative work whereas (homo)social kinship has been the norm. Also in current globalized and nomadic research, social kinship is a pronounced feature of the scientists’ life. Scientists form “fictive” kinships resembling paternal, avuncular, and sibling relationships. These associations have career-long implications and weave together fields, even globally. Throughout the history of modern science, family relations – based on blood relations or intimate social ties – remain fundamental for generating and upholding networks of collegiality, trust and status.

The special issue will elaborate a broad definition of scientific family. It will be viewed as a legal, biological and/or social/cultural entity formed around knowledge making practices. Boundaries between legal and biological family on the one hand and social kinship on the other cannot be understood as a priori. Rather, such demarcations are potentially a fruitful object of study; they are culturally negotiable and a product of historical processes.

The questions we wish to engage in the special issue are the following:

· How can analyses of family life sharpen our understanding of how scientific cultures are reproduced spatially as well as temporally?

· How can the study of scientific families enhance our understanding of how gender, class and sexuality intersect in knowledge-making practices?

· How has the family functioned as a metaphor for scientific collaboration?

· How is family as an entity connected with the migration of knowledge and knowledge makers/making?

· How do private relationships operate as a foundation for social networks in science?

· How has the family as a cultural and social regime produced certain emotions and affects in relation to scientific endeavors, while barring others?

Our point of departure is multidisciplinary but located within the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Our analytical perspective derives from the fields of history, cultural studies, sociology and anthropology. Contributions will address theories of social networks and fictive kinship as well as cultural theory of habitus (Bourdieu) and repetition. However, we also wish to reinterpret some of these dominant concepts through questions about the family as symbolic form for organizing science.

Contact and deadlines:

Abstracts should be sent by 31 January 2012 to:
Staffan Bergwik <>

For accepted Abstracts, full drafts of articles will be expected by 15 June 2012. These must follow the SaC standard editorial guidelines, at least their structural and conceptual points.
Available at

But the length limit will be shorter for the special issue.