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CSS Colloquium - Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen: The missing narrativist turn in the historiography of science

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Monday 13 May 2013,  at 10:15 - 12:00



The missing narrativist turn in the historiography of science

Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen (Department of Philosophy, Hull, UK)

The narrativist turn of the 1970s and 1980s transformed the discussion of general history. With the rejection of Rankean historical realism, the focus shifted to the historian as a narrator and on narratives as literary products. Oddly, the historiography of science took a turn in the opposite direction at the same time. The social turn in the historiography of science emphasized studying science as a material and practical activity with traceable and documentable traits. This empirization of the field has led to an understanding that history of science could be directly describable from scientific practice alone without acknowledging the role of the historian as a constructor of narratives about these practices. Contemporary historians of science tend to be critical of science’s ability to describe its object—nature, as it is—but they often are not similarly skeptical of their own abilities to describe their object: past science, as it is. I will argue that historiography of science can only gain from a belated narrativist turn