Science and Liberalism: April 7-8, 2023 (5733 S. University Ave)

About the Conference

Science and liberalism appear to be bound more and more tightly as the crises of the present moment, from the pandemic to severe weather events, make painfully clear. This conference begins from the observation that liberalism and science have always been linked in ways that are both explicit and unspoken. At the same time that historical scholarship has laid bare the genealogies of liberalism in relation to colonialism, racism, and capitalism, science studies scholars and historians of science have revealed the many ways that science is produced and bounded by the social worlds it inhabits. In light of these critical traditions, we will bring together a diverse group of scholars to explore two related themes.

First, we will interrogate the ways “science” furnishes the liberal world with many of its key features, including for example individuality, diversity, autonomy/choice, and security. In other words, taking seriously the critical genealogies of liberalism that have emerged in recent years, we will examine the role of the sciences in that history of liberalism.

Second, we will attempt to make explicit the decidedly liberal contexts in which our fields have taken shape, with the aim of understanding how this context may have limited our collective understanding of the histories of science, technology and medicine. Our goal is to move past the idea that there is a single choice – either critique science rigorously but risk giving ammunition to illiberal forces or defend science as a part of liberal technocracy’s last gasping breaths. Both options serve liberalism. Maybe there are new ways to do critical scholarship on science.

Unless otherwise noted, all sessions will be held in the Community Room at The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality 5733 S. University Ave. Registration is not required.

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