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Borders and Crossings / Seuils et Traverses: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Travel Writing (session: Women’s Scientific Travelling, 1750-1850) (Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham, England: 2-5 July 2012)

Deadline: 30 Apr 2012

The forthcoming Borders and Crossings/Seuils et Traverses conference will feature a panel on Women’s Scientific Travelling, 1750-1850. To offer a paper (in accordance with the themes outlined below), please contact Dr Carl Thompson with a short abstract and biographical details. Deadline for proposals: 30th April 2012.

It is often assumed, in both scholarly and popular accounts of travel and travel writing, that scientific travel and exploration was a male preserve until at least the twentieth century. The same received wisdom, moreover, usually suggests that the many women travellers of earlier eras typically travelled in a more desultory and dilettante fashion – as devotees of the picturesque, for example, or as ‘sentimental’ tourists. Yet recent scholarship has begun to question and problematize these stereotypical views, especially in relation to many women travellers of the late 19th century. As several studies have shown, travellers such as Isabella Bird and Mary Kingsley undoubtedly made important contributions to contemporary science, although the gender norms of their day usually required them to be self-deprecating and to disclaim the highly esteemed label of ‘explorer’. Less well-known, however, are Bird and Kingsley’s many precursors in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Maria Graham, for example, became in 1824 the first woman to publish in the Transactions of the Geological Society, when she contributed a report on an earthquake she had witnessed in Chile. Sarah Bowdich, meanwhile, accompanied her husband on an expedition to the Gambia river in 1822, and made numerous scientific discoveries in her own right; she is credited, for example, with being the first woman to discover a whole new genera of plants.

Women’s Scientific Travelling, 1750-1850 is intended as an interdisciplinary panel which can shed further light on these precursors to Bird and Kingsley. We accordingly welcome papers exploring any aspect of the intersections between women, science and travel and travel writing in this period. This can include topics such as:

* women who travelled in scientific spirit, conducting fieldwork or other forms of research;
* women who used travel writing as means of engaging with, or contributing to, contemporary scientific debate;
* the discursive and rhetorical difficulties faced by women in adopting a scientific persona on the page;
* the wider intellectual and cultural networks which enabled and assisted women’s participation in contemporary science.

Contact details:
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Filed under: Call for Papers - Conferences

Last updated: 5 Apr 2012



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