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Mary Elizabeth Barber (1818-1899): A History of Knowledge, Gender and Natural History

English title Mary Elizabeth Barber (1818-1899): A History of Knowledge, Gender and Natural History
Applicant Harries Patrick
Number 146259
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Geschichte Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.05.2013 - 31.08.2015
Approved amount 129'538.00
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Keywords (9)

history of knowledge; history of knowledge; gender; colonialism; biography; visual epistemology; visual history; case study; microhistory

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
In der Wissenschaftsgeschichte gerieten Sammler und Systematiker, insbesondere wenn sie weiblich waren, zugunsten von Forschungsreisenden und Wissenschaftlern in Vergessenheit. Anhand einer in England geborenen, in der Kap Kolonie wirkenden Naturhistorikerin zeigt diese Untersuchung aber, dass es sich lohnt solchen Spuren nachzugehen, um wissenschaftliche Diskurse und Praktiken zu erforschen.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Mary Barbers Wissens zirkulierte in der Kapkolonie, England, Irland und Kontinentaleuropa dank ihren Inskriptionen in Text- und Bildquellen. Barbers Spezimen, Korrespondenzen und Illustrationen erlauben Einblick in das Sammeln, die Systematisierung und den Transport ihres Wissens. Darüber hinaus ermöglicht die mikrohistorische Fallstudie allgemeine Schlüsse über die Rolle von Geschlecht, Subjektivität, Lokalität, Politik und Kultur in der westlichen und imperialen naturhistorischen Wissenskultur des 19. Jahrhunderts zu ziehen. Anhand Barbers Darwin-Rezeption wird z.B. die Adaptation von Informationen an die jeweilige Situation sowie das Ringen um die Vereinbarung von unterschiedlichen Ideologien in eine Weltanschauung exemplarisch aufgezeigt.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Das Projekt kombiniert Ansätze der Biografieforschung, der Wissensgeschichte und Visual History und erlaubt neue Perspektiven auf soziokulturelle, religiöse und politische Faktoren, die Wissenschaft und Natur prägten.Damit leistet es einen Beitrag zum Verständnis der Botanik und Entomologie im 19. Jahrhundert sowie der Rolle von Frauen in den Naturwissenschaften.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.04.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Of Birds and (Wo)men
Hammel Tanja (2015), Of Birds and (Wo)men, in Arlt Veit, Bishop Stephanie, Schmid Pascal (ed.), Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel, 61-63.
D. Happold, African Naturalist: the Life and Times of Rodney Carrington Wood 1889–1962
Hammel Tanja (2013), D. Happold, African Naturalist: the Life and Times of Rodney Carrington Wood 1889–1962, in Journal of Southern African Studies, 39(2), 486-487.
Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Expedition Journal an Experiment with her Identity
Hammel Tanja, Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Expedition Journal an Experiment with her Identity, in Klemun Marianne, Spring Ulrike (ed.), Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke.
Racial Difference in Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Knowledge on Insects
Hammel Tanja, Racial Difference in Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Knowledge on Insects, in Boehi Melanie, Miescher Giorgio, Ramutsindela Maano (ed.), Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel.
The Politics and Production of History on the Birth of Archaeology at the Cape, 1827–2015
Hammel Tanja, The Politics and Production of History on the Birth of Archaeology at the Cape, 1827–2015, in Harries Patrick, Lengwiler Martin (ed.), American Publishing House, America.
Thinking with Birds: Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Advocating for Gender Equality in Ornithology
Hammel Tanja, Thinking with Birds: Mary Elizabeth Barber’s Advocating for Gender Equality in Ornithology, in Kronos: Journal for Southern African Histories, 41(1), 2015.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of History, University of Sydney Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Seminar für Mittlere und Neuere Geschichte/ Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
History Department, University of the Western Cape South Africa (Africa)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Women's Studies/Humanities, York University, Toronto Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
eikones - NCCR Iconic Criticism Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
African Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
DFG-Graduate School 1539 ‘Sichtbarkeit und Sichtbarmachung: Hybride Formen des Bildwissens’ Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Kolloquium Neuere und Neueste Geschichte, Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas Individual talk Kolonialisierung der Vergangenheit. Anfänge der Archäologie in der Kap-Kolonie 26.05.2015 Seminar für Mittlere und Neuere Geschichte, Georg-August Universität, Göttingen, Germany Hammel Tanja;
Vorstellungen von Naturräumen Talk given at a conference Interconnectedness of the Personal & Political: How Mary Elizabeth Barber Challenged Contemporary Gender Relations in her Contributions to Ornithology 18.12.2014 Kanonengasse 27, Basel, Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
Research Exhibitions Talk given at a conference Bicentenary exhibition(s) on naturalist Mary Elizabeth Barber’s (1818–1899) life, work & time 25.10.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel, Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
Race, Science and Identity, in the Global South Talk given at a conference Colonizing the Past: The Bowkers’ Contributions to Prehistoric Archaeology 13.10.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel, Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
The Politics of Nature and Science in African History Talk given at a conference Changing Accounts of Nature in the second half of the 19th Century: Mary Elizabeth Barber in the Cape Colony 15.05.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien , Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
Graduate Colloquium: Global Encounters Talk given at a conference Plants as Actors in Human-Plant Relationships? 29.11.2013 Queen Mary, University of London , Great Britain and Northern Ireland Hammel Tanja;
5th African History Day: “Archives: Methods and Sources” , mit Carolyn Hamilton (University of Cape Town) Talk given at a conference The Power of Selection in Archiving Processes 09.11.2013 Basler Afrika Bibliographien , Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
Explorations in the History of Natural Science in Africa, Graduierten-Workshop mit Lawrence D Talk given at a conference Female Naturalist’ Self-Understanding – Challenges to Discourses on Gender Politics & Self-Fulfillment in the second half of the 19th century 02.10.2013 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Basel, Switzerland Hammel Tanja;
Bild(er)geschichte(n), Graduierten-Workshop, BGSH/ eikones, Talk given at a conference Contextualizing Mary Barber’s Visual Entomology in Botanical Practices c. 1860–1890, 13.05.2013 eikones, Rheinsprung 11, Basel, Switzerland Hammel Tanja;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Vorstellungen von Naturräumen 18.12.2014 Basel, Switzerland
Research, Exhibitions and African History 25.10.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Switzerland
Science, Race, and Identity in the Global South 13.10.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Switzerland
Politics of Nature and Science in African History 15.05.2014 Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Switzerland
Bild(er)geschichte(n) 13.05.2014 eikones, Rheinsprung 11, Basel, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Die Kisten, die die Welt nach Basel brachten Zeitnah- Kulturmagazin seit 2012 (Blog) German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Media relations: print media, online media Research, Exhibitions and African History HsozUKult International 2014
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Encounters: William Beinart, University of Oxford ewsletter Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Afrikastudien Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2013
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Intransparent Privatisierung des Wissens Zeitnah - Kulturmagazin seit 2012 (Blog) German-speaking Switzerland 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
186623 Shaping Science and Society: A History of Mary Elizabeth Barber in the Nineteenth-Century Cape 01.03.2019 Open Access Books

Abstract

At the beginning of the 21st century, knowledge systems about nature face severe challenges. While science is heralded as a key contributor to future solutions of environmental problems, it is also investigated as a cause of nature’s destruction. In order to better understand the position and potential of scientific knowledge in the present crisis, there is a new need to examine the foundation period of natural science, its historical context and inherited structures. This project contributes to a wider debate on the development of scientific knowledge through a rigorous archival-based historical case study that examines the role of gender, locality and subjectivity in the transnational making of knowledge about nature. Mary Elizabeth Barber (1818-1899) was an exceptional British born and South African-based naturalist. In her pursuit of Humboldtian science, she transgressed gender boundaries, borders between the colonies and the metropolis, and between local and international knowledge. In a micro-historical inquiry, this PhD investigates the conditions of knowledge production and takes Barber’s lifeworld, British colonialism in a frontier region, Darwinist discourse as well as cultural and scientific practices in South-North exchange into account. She is part of a small cohort of 19th-century female scientists that has recently attracted wider interest in historical research because of their role in the making of ‘universal’ knowledge systems. The impact of colonialism, Frontier Wars (1834-1879), the Diamond (1871) and Gold Rushes (1886) opened up opportunities for Barber in the new and growing disciplines of the natural sciences. Socialised into a male sphere of farmers and naturalists, she zealously contributed to the making of science through her correspondence. Despite being marginalized as an amateur and as a female scholar, she corresponded with influential scientists of her time, such as entomologist Roland Trimen (1840-1916), botanists William H. Harvey (1811-1866) and Joseph D. Hooker (1817-1911) as well as naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82). Engaged in Darwin’s early reception, she was torn between her Christian faith and Darwin’s evolutionary theory. This project is situated within the innovative Swiss Wissensgeschichte, which - in dialogue with the Anglophone History of Knowledge - is developing new perspectives on socio-cultural, religious and political factors that shape concepts of science and nature. Scientific knowledge is based on multisensory, emotional and intellectual perceptions of the environment. These perceptions draw on visual and material sources to construct and circulate transcultural knowledge. Through their investigation, I will focus on the project’s central questions:•What impact did women like Barber have on the development of natural science disciplines? •How did social factors influence knowledge production? •What role did local informants and their forms of knowledge play in Barber’s work?•In what ways did the exploration of nature in colonial spaces affect colonialism; contribute to the colonists’ sense of belonging, ownership of the land, and its contents? How did South-North information exchange shape 19th-century constructions of ‘universal’ knowledge systems?
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