In the Name of Science: The Politics of Scientific Authority in Modern Spain

Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 1
Thursday, January 5, 2012: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
O’Hare Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Joshua Goode, Claremont Graduate University
Federica Montseny, Anarchism, Love, and Evolution
Andrew H. Lee, New York University
The Statebuilders: Spanish Engineers and Modern Governmentality,  1835–1914
Darina Martykánová, Historisches Institut, Universität Potsdam; Juan Pan-Montojo, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
David Ortiz Jr., University of Arizona

Session Abstract

The three papers in this panel address intersections between political and scientific transformations during the 19th and 20th centuries in Spain. The papers in the panel address the sometimes symbiotic and sometimes conflictive relationships between scientific and political authorities. In times of political instability and scientific advancement, many political and professional groups looked to the authority of science in order to support their professional, political, or social aims and claims. These groups proposed initiatives “in the name of science,” a practice that made it more difficult for opponents to dismiss their claims.  In the name of science, anarchists drew from Darwinism in order to propose ideas about gender. In the name of science, Spanish engineers and doctors argued for state support and tried to influence state policies. And, in the name of science, doctors and their allies, in the case of Dr. Alfredo Alegre, attempted to transform murder into a heroic act. Claims made “in the name of science” were empowered by claims of objectivity and universality and forged in national, transnational, and international discussions. Because the development of scientific discourses and practices was simultaneously national, transnational, and international, science tied Spanish professionals and political groups to the world outside the Spanish nation state. Anarchists could converse with colleagues across the Atlantic whereas engineers and doctors could look to their professional counterparts elsewhere for inspiration. While the national concentration should make the panel of interest to historians of Modern Spain, the panel should also be of interest to scholars of other regions who study the history of science, medicine, professionalization, or the state. In part because the Spanish case may be unfamiliar to the U.S. academic audience, the panel should serve as a provocative starting point for comparative discussions.