CfP: Farestoria - Actors, practices and the circulation of scientific knowledge in Colonial Italy

- CFP Special issue of Farestoria -
Istituto storico della Resistenza e dell’età contemporanea di Pistoia

Over the past forty years, the relationship between science and colonial empires has been increasingly debated in the historical field. From the 1980s, historiography began to critically question the validity of the diffusionist model of the development of science outside the European context, such had been proposed by George Basalla’s studies in the late 1960s. Influenced by Marxist perspectives and later by the works of Michel Foucault, Edward Said and Subaltern Studies, the historiographical analysis turned, during the 1980s and 1990s, to the study of science and medicine as tools for the consolidation of empires — as means of exploitation and cultural forces of domination, even if they were contested and negotiated. Since the 2000s, historiographical interest has gradually shifted to the problems of the circulation, exchange, translation and mobility of science, which is no longer explored as a system of Western knowledge or only as a tool of European imperialism but rather as a global enterprise. The analysis of the dynamism of the peripheries has now been replaced by an attention to the networks, interconnections and everyday practices of knowledge that cross national and imperial borders. The result of these conceptual transformations — enabled by perspectives developed by the history and sociology of science, now focused on the analysis of science as a socially, geographically and materially situated practice — is a history of knowledge that is conscious of the role played by the colonial space in shaping modern science.
Studies on Italian colonial expansion have only recently developed a more systematic focus on the perspectives exposed by this field of study, despite the interest that works on Italian colonialism in past decades devoted to the roles played by geography, anthropology, law and visual and material cultures. In a more or less overt dialogue with the proposals of international historiography, some historians have begun to examine the role played by psychiatric, medical, biological, agrarian and zootechnical practices in shaping Colonial Italy and in the structuring of racial categories. Other interventions have focused on the environmental dimension of colonialism, the role of natural resources, the dynamics of scientific musealisation, colonial food policies and the circulation of experts between Italy and its former colonies.
This issue of Farestoria follows the orientations opened by these studies, aiming to systematically reflect on the construction and consolidation of scientific and medical practices in the context of Italian colonial expansion. The issue intends to promote reflection around two methodological axes. On the one hand, it examines the construction of medical and scientific knowledge within a widened landscape — that of the circulation and reformulation of conceptions, practices and scientific objects between colonial and metropolitan spaces and across imperial borders. On the other hand, the issue will give priority to reflection that considers longer-term perspectives, paying attention to the formation of knowledge, practices and devices across liberal, fascist and post-war republican Italy.
Proposals may relate to, but are not limited to, the following topics:

- Processes of construction of scientific knowledge and practices in connection with Italian overseas expansion; continuity and discontinuity of practices between liberal Italy, fascism and the post-war republican period
- Dynamics of circulation, homogenisation, and reformulation of knowledge within imperial borders and beyond
- Colonial expansion, scientific and medical knowledge, racial categories
- The role of intermediaries; forms of appropriation of indigenous systems of knowledge and practices
- Learning spaces and contexts for colonial experts
- The role of images and visual culture in the construction of concepts and scientific practices instrumental to colonial rule
- Symbolic and political uses of science; science as a site for the creation of legitimising discourses; role of medical and scientific knowledge in Italian colonial pedagogy
- The impact of notions such as “tropical” and “colonial” in the reconfiguration of geographical space and scientific knowledge
- The relationship between medical and scientific knowledge, colonial campaigns and military expertise
- Colonial sciences, industry, economic and commercial development
- Sciences and their impact on colonial societies (and the limits of their impact).


Proposals (3,000 characters) accompanied by a short CV (2,000 characters) should be sent by May 18, 2023 to

The selected participants are required to submit the final paper, with a maximum length of 50,000 characters (including notes), by October 31, 2023.
Essays will be subject to single blind refereeing.

Contributions in Italian and English are accepted; selected essays in English will be translated into Italian and must be submitted by September 31, 2023.