Wednesday February 15th, 2017. 14-16h. Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy, Magnel-wing, Room ‘Freddy Mortier’.
Registration is not required for GEMS-members. Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven.
Michiel Van Dam – Governing through history: Foucault, political reason and historical knowledge
During the eighteenth century, speaking about the past of the polity was often inevitably political, as the political culture of the late ancien régime had as its premise the unaltered preservation and continuity of its ancient institutions throughout history. To interpret the past – for example, by distributing agency, authority and legitimacy across a set of historical actors –, was to interpret the present itself. As such, historians studying the politics of the early modern past have usually focused on reconstructing the ideological claims made by the intellectual combatants, which were hidden beneath the façade of the truthful historical narrative. What I wish to discuss in this presentation, is the possibility of approaching the political history of eighteenth-century historiography in a different manner, one where the focus is not so much put on the past’s function in the formation of political identity or authority-claims. More specifically, I want to ask the question whether we can approach historical discourse through the framework of governmentality. In his lectures at the Collège de France at the end of the 1970’s, Michel Foucault (1926-1984) introduced the concept of ‘governmentality’, where he redirected his attention towards historical practices of “conducting conduct”. Starting from the early modern ‘art of government’ as a representative of a third mechanism of power (alongside sovereignty and discipline), Foucault was able to put in focus an original field of study, embodied by the intricate relation between the rise of the early modern state, increasingly secularized concerns with popular social conduct, and the political rationality which shaped the state’s response to such conduct. Not much scholarly attention has been given to the question of which forms of knowledge – apart from those discussed by Foucault himself, such as the political-economic theories of the French physiocrates – lent itself to eighteenth-century governmental analyses of conduct. It is my intention to investigate the role played by the past in such governmental discourses. By discussing a number of sources which originated in the Austrian Netherlands (1715-1794), I hope to show the fruitfulness of this concept for the study of the early modern politics of the past.
Teodoro Katinis – The Italian Medical Literature in Early Modern Europe (c.1500-c.1700): Authors, Texts, Public
This project’s main aim is to accomplish the first comprehensive analysis of the most widespread Italian medical works published and translated from 16th to 17th century. Any genre of medical literature may play a role in this project whose overall objective is twofold: 1) to provide an analysis of the rhetorical strategies and language that convey the contents of the most popular Italian works; 2) to examine how these works addressed the needs of a very broad public of any social class, gender, and age, anticipating the modern approach to the communication of scientific knowledge. Although the plague was the most urgent concern in the early modern age, the texts on plague were not the only ones to change in language, method, and content. Furthermore, several physicians also wrote works to improve the vernacular as a language for scientific knowledge. In the 16th and 17th century the most original Italian authors published their works in Venice from where the they spread through Europe thanks to the translation in English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Latin. Indeed, this project has also the ambition to recover the legacy of these works abroad.