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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


'Ethno-Science' is a reading group dedicated to programmatic and critical texts on the relationship between scientific and local, 'indigenous' or 'native' knowledges. We have a look at eighteenth-century travel instructions that asked to routinely record indigenous names and knowledge. We explore economic botany and zoology as an important strand of nineteenth-century natural history relying on systematic surveys of national and colonial territories, and the eventual consolidation of 'ethno-' disciplines in the twentieth century. The aim is to understand the relationship between reifications and reinterpretations of 'savage', 'indigenous', 'native' or 'primitive' knowledge and corresponding field practices of interrogation and interaction with local informants. We are interested in the putative shifts towards an increasingly global awareness and calls for the incorporation of 'traditional' knowledge in political and scientific discourses.

In Easter Term 2023, we want to turn to sources: the travel journals, field notes and interview records that allow insights into the negotiations and interactions at the shifting boundaries between 'Science and Its Others'. In each session, we will discuss extracts from sources selected by a member of the reading group who will also introduce them.

This reading group is part of the activities of the Gloknos Research Group 'Science and Its Others: Histories of Ethno-Science' led by Harriet Mercer, Staffan Müller-Wille and Raphael Uchôa.

The meetings take place in a hybrid format on Wednesdays from 1.00 to 2.30pm in Easter Term 2023 (4 meetings). If you have any questions, or want to make sure you receive email announcements, please contact Staffan Müller-Wille (

Easter Term 2023

26 April

Harriet Mercer: William Dawes and the Eora Language Notebooks of the Late Eighteenth Century

3 May

Staffan Müller-Wille: Extracts from Linnaeus's Lapland journal (Iter lapponicum, 1732)

10 May

Paula López-Caballero: The Sol Tax expedition to Zinacantán, Chiapas (Mexico, 1942–3)

17 May

Raphael Uchôa: Extracts from Richard Spruce's field notes on his travel to the Amazon basin (1849–1864)