Call for Papers: Knowledge Networks in Rural Europe since 1700

RHN 165/2013 | Call

Organisers: Interfaculty Centre for Agrarian History (ICAG), KU Leuven, Belgium; European Graduate School for Training in Economic and Social Historical Research (ESTER)

27-29 August 2014, Interfaculty Centre for Agrarian History, KU Leuven, Belgium

Deadline: 25 January 2014

Conference:
“Knowledge Networks in Rural Europe since 1700”

The Interfaculty Centre for Agrarian History (ICAG) at the University of Leuven will organize, together with the European Graduate School for Training in Economic and Social Historical Research (ESTER) and other partners, a three day conference on knowledge production and diffusion in the countryside. PhD students and early career researchers (who finished their doctorate from no more than five years) are particularly encouraged to participate. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the conference organisers. Deadline for application: 25 January 2014.

Theme: Rural knowledge networks

Knowing is very vague a concept, although it seems to refer much more to the city than to the rural environment, to theory than to daily practices, and to those who produce science and transmit its derivatives via educational programs than to the doings and dealings of the masses. Recent historical research has undermined this rather static and top down understanding of knowledge. Its production and circulation are never detached enterprises, but socially situated and intentional. What is recognized as knowledge has perhaps less to do with facts and proofs, than with social and cultural traditions, needs and expectations, and with communication, negotiation and creative methods of transmission. This is thus an opportune moment to bring together a number of historians currently working on knowledge production and diffusion in the countryside and among farmers, from the ‘enlightened’ eighteenth century onwards.

The planned conference regarding 'Knowledge Networks in Rural Europe' intends to focus on recent interpretative models, methods and concepts from various sciences (especially sociology, anthropology, communication sciences and geography) that can help to elucidate the mechanisms of knowledge production, diffusion and reception in the countryside. It aims specifically at fueling research and critical reflection on rural knowledge from an innovative and promising perspective, namely that of networks. According to the sociologists Van Dijk and Castells, we live nowadays in a ‘network society’, steered by new means of communication and spreading of knowledge. It will be revealing to unravel how the sites and bearers of rural and agricultural knowledge (individuals, groups, institutions, media) were connected to each other and to the non-rural world, how they influenced each other, and how these networks shaped agriculture itself and sustained, even up to now, a more or less distinct rural identity.

The conference welcomes papers that focus on different periods, places and holders of knowledge in the countryside in order to fuel international comparisons to get a better understanding of the evolving mechanisms that shaped knowledge and ways of knowing. It will thus analyze whether or to what extent people in rural Europe formed more or less homogeneous ‘epistemic communities’, at a local or (supra) regional scale, and how their knowing was determined and altered via the complex interplay of networks of actors. Guiding questions are:

  • How did agricultural and rural knowledge networks came to being?  How did they operate: top-down, bottom-up or two-way communication?
  • What was the role of public and private actors (government, state agronomists, farmers' organisations, commercial firms, media, the church, etc.)?
  • Who had access to which knowledge? To whom was the available information addressed (men, women, youth; professional farmers or rural dwellers)? Which knowledge was adopted or rejected and why? How efficient was the degree of agricultural extension initiatives? Did inclusion or exclusion from knowledge networks influence power structures?
  • Which channels were used to diffuse knowledge (education, newspapers, radio, films, television, journals, books, lectures, advertisements, expositions, agricultural shows, etc.)?
  • To what extent was knowledge, generated outside Europe, imported in Europe, for instance from the U.S. and European colonies? Or vice versa? To what extent did knowledge networks globalize?

Application

Paper proposals are invited on the above mentioned topics. PhD students and early career researchers (who finished their doctorate from no more than five years). are particularly encouraged to participate. Please send your proposal (max. 250 words) and a short cv to yves.segers@icag.kuleuven.be by 25 January 2014. The conference programme will be finalized by 15 February 2014. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the conference organisers. The language of the conference is English.

The conference will be held at the Interfaculty Centre for Agrarian History (ICAG), University of Leuven, Belgium. It is organised by ICAG, in cooperation with the N.W. Posthumus Institute (Research School for Economic and Social History in the Netherlands and Flanders), ESTER (European graduate school for training in economic and social historical research), NAHI (Netherlands Agricultural Historical Institute, University Groningen / Wageningen University) and CORN (Research Network Comparative Rural History of the North Sea Area).