The circulation of knowledge and the construction of modern structures of government have been identified as key forces that shaped modern profession of engineer. In this session, we would like to take a step further and test the role of engineers as mediators in the transnational circulation of knowledge and skills in a specific political framework: the imperial powers in the margins of Europe. Ruling elites of these empires systematically encouraged the transfer of specific knowledge and skills as they strove to maintain and strengthen the geo-political position of the empire. They framed this effort in the discourses of rattrapage and modernization. Similar discourses and practices were developed by the leaders of political movements that challenged the established regimes, although the territorial unit and the community to be saved and modernized could differ. By the 19th century, the very legitimacy of these empires was challenged and, in the 20th century, at the latest, they had disintegrated and/or transformed into Nation-States.
Besides the states, there were other important frameworks for the engineers’ practice: 1) the companies; and 2) the intellectual/expert communities, both being transnational entities that could not be easily linked to a particular country. In these complex settings of highly fluid power structures, the engineers had to negotiate their professional identities and their practice. How was the construction and reconfiguration of professional identities and practice shaped in the changing political and economic frameworks? How did technical knowledge and professional discourses shape the economic and political structures, institutions and practices? Is there a relation between specific patterns of domination and governance, on the one hand, and the construction of modern engineering, on the other?
We are particularly interested in late patrimonial empires of the European periphery (Portugal, Spain, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Russia) and the Nation-States that emerged from them (Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Greece, Serbia, Egypt, etc.). The participants will include comparative and/or transnational perspective. The time span is from the 18th to the 20th century. The papers will be presented in English and French. The session should provide material for an analysis that would combine history of science and technology, political and economic history as well as sociology of professions.
Darina Martykánová – University of Potsdam, Germany
Ana Cardoso de Matos – University of Évora (CIDEHUS), Portugal
Irina Gouzévitch – EHESS, France