School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    An unreasonable profession : spiritualism and mediumship between the wars in Britain
    Hazelgrove, Jennifer P ( 1996)
    In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Spiritualist claims that the dead survive in another world and communicate with the living became a subject of heated debate within English society. Originating in America in the eighteen-forties, Spiritualism found ready converts in England. By 1870, many periodicals were devoted to chronicling the activities of believers, while newspaper articles, church sermons and scientific reports issued a stream of diverse interpretations to a fascinated audience. Spiritualism has become a subject of lively historical interest in recent times, but most historians assume that it was a Victorian and Edwardian phenomenon, with little relevance in post World War I Britain. I began this study with similar assumptions, but as my research progressed, it became clear that the number of people who identified as Spiritualists grew in the interwar years and that Spiritualism was as controversial during this period as in the previous century. In sketching its passage and growth between the wars, I emphasise Spiritualism's ability to absorb and organise both modem and ancient tropes. As the movement continued to gain in popularity the debate over its meaning and possibilities for humankind grew apace. At the centre of these controversies stood the figure of the medium. The mediumistic persona was constructed inside and outside the Spiritualist movement as feminine. This project engages with issues of gender, subjectivity and power in relation to the development of the mediumistic identity. In doing so I stress the profound ambiguity of that identity. The medium, as represented through diverse narratives, appeared as both subject and object, the source of truth and lies, and the mother of life and death. It was always unclear whether she was psychically gifted or demented, or whether she intended to harm or heal. Confronted with opposing narratives, a coherent sense of "self' was not easily achieved by a medium. Ultimately, this study attempts to show that the mediumistic "self' was never a stable result of private conviction, but a deeply unstable and continually shifting production that developed within particular historical circumstances
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    History as science : Michael White and his contributions to cytogenetics and evolutionary theory
    McCann, Douglas Andrew ( 1994)
    Michael White (1910-1983) was foundation professor of the Department of Genetics at the University of Melbourne and one of the world's leading cytogeneticists. He made fundamental contributions to general cytogenetics and evolutionary cytogenetics. In 1945 White published Animal Cytology and Evolution which integrated an enormous amount of previously disparate data on cytogenetics into an evolutionary framework. This book was praised by his colleagues as a primary contribution to the emerging Neo-Darwinian evolutionary synthesis. Yet since then his status in the history of the evolutionary synthesis has become ambiguous. Some recent commentators omit him from their accounts. In this thesis it is argued that White's disappearance from history is not accidental but the result of a successful strategy by competing scientists to construct a version of evolutionary biology that legitimates their own discipline, research program and world view. This study takes the form of a biography but with an emphasis on the social and cultural context of science. A social constructivist conflict model has been employed, specifically Bourdieu's 'struggle for scientific authority' metaphor, as articulated by Sapp (1987). It is suggested that unless social factors are included in any account of the production of scientific knowledge then the analysis is incomplete. It is further claimed that the 'internal politics of science' can be an important determinant in scientific knowledge construction. Competition between scientists can be both interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary. It will be shown that White was engaged in just such a struggle for scientific authority with several scientists and that this competition stimulated and informed his own research. A major theme of the thesis is that history itself is a resource which scientists can deploy in support of their knowledge claims and/or to enhance their own standing in the field. It is argued that White's place in the history of science has been determined (and is being re-determined) not only by the quantity and quality of his scientific work but also by the way this work had been interpreted (or ignored) by his colleagues and competitors. It is not simply a question of the 'factual' basis of the scientists' research but whether that work supports, or does not support, currently accepted views and whether or not it serves the social and technical interests of others within or outside the field. Scientific knowledge is thus both negotiated and constructed.