Georgiana Kotsou

Convention Conventions

Faculty of Arts and Social sciences, Maastricht University, g.kotsou@maastrichtuniversity.nl

Supervisors: Prof. Cyrus Mody, Dr. Geert Somsen, Dr. Alexandra Supper

Background

Georgiana Kotsou holds a BA in Sociology from Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences and two MAs from Maastricht University. Her thesis for the MA in Media Culture investigated the relationship between pirate websites which make available copyrighted academic books and articles to their users and the academic content circulation practices inside the academic community. Library Genesis, a pirate website and online community, was used as a case study. Her thesis for the MA in European Studies on Society, Science and Technology examined the discourses of the emergence of Big Data technologies present in the Greek medical press.

Summary PhD Project

Originally a European phenomenon, and following the Enlightenment ideal of a cosmopolitan Republic of Letters, thousands of science conferences have been organized since the nineteenth century, and still today many science policy actors promote scholarly meetings as prime sites of international community formation. If, as Emile Durkheim held, religious rites are expressions of a society celebrating itself, then conference rituals can be studied as expert communities celebrating and articulating their own existence and coherence. Such practices have to be understood against the temporal ephemerality of the conference form and to external threats of disintegration.

 

My research examines the forms and functions of the conference culture that emerged in the course of the century. It follows a set of conferences to study their rituals: speeches, dinners, excursions, opening ceremonies, as well as the roles of spouses, students, and dress-codes. The focus will be on chemistry as a ‘typical’, yet war-torn, discipline. In addition to the usual sources of conflict, including theoretical disputes and priority claims, chemistry was plagued by rifts over the balance of industrial and academic interests, and the passionately experienced national antagonisms.

 

Conference culture involves rites but also roles. In a male-dominated world, special roles were particularly set apart for professors’ wives, who often accompanied their spouses and were vital in establishing networks, not only amongst themselves (e.g. in “lady programs”), but also between their families and husbands. This research will explore the role of domesticity in shaping professorial relations, extending it to private interactions at conferences.

 

The research project consists of four partners, located at Uppsala University, Sweden, Birkbeck University, London, the Centre Alexandre Koyré in Paris, and Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Each partner examines one dimension of conferences in history: social stratification, geopolitics, setting, and ritual, respectively.