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German prisoner's of war in the lab of the botinical garden, Delft, 6 May 1945

Scientific practice in times of war and oppression, 1914-1950

This project aims to investigate 20th-century Dutch scientific practice in the shadow of war and oppression. The researchers will draw on approaches from the history of science that focus not on the choices of individual scientists, but on the structural intertwining of science, politics and business as an aspect of modern scientific practice.

One important mechanism in this respect, derived from the work of historian of science Mitchell G. Ash, is the mutual exchange of resources: the recruitment of personnel, finances and epistemic tools such as concepts, research techniques and models. The question is then how research agenda-setting and the actual production of knowledge emerged from structures of oppression, and how knowledge was used to exercise and legitimise oppression and violence in a period of two world wars and dynamic colonial relations. These questions about the exchange between scientific knowledge and oppression invite us to test the utility of common and innovative conceptions of power, exploitation and violence.

This theme is investigated on the basis of a number of case studies in which the exchange of knowledge and resources between the state, science and business is explored in the geographical and political space of the colonial Netherlands. The main publication, a Dutch-language book, is planned for the winter of 2024-25. The research findings will also be translated into other media, including a scientific article and a podcast. Several expert meetings are also planned.

The project will run until the end of August 2024.

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