19 June 2009

Charleston 2009

This is the second time I have attended the “International Society for the History of Neurosciences.” Like my first visit, I have had a wonderful experience. Charleston is a beautiful city done-up in gorgeous pastels and Georgian facades, many of them actually from the period. While the humidity and heat have kept me from the streets in the mid-Afternoon, my moments of leisure in this city will leave lasting memories. I will come back here again.

The meeting itself has been a delightful and thought-provoking event for me. Like all such academic meetings, it has been a time for greeting old friends and making new acquaintances. There have been the usual habits of the bottle and feasting and other forms of self-medication, and those moments have led to many a good laugh and conversation.

As I was at the Los Angeles meeting, I am struck by the obvious generational divides here. I must be one of the youngest people here. And perhaps because of the difference in age, I sense acutely all of those unresolved tensions in twentieth-century historiography that one might expect: there are the internalist and externalist camps, the commonplace controversy between the Whig and Social interpretations, and the occasionally voiced scepticism of cultural approaches. In a way, of course, these different traditions reflect both the international diversity of the group and its demography.

Nevertheless, I appreciate being surrounded by people with my passion for this topic. We may all bring different viewpoints and approaches to the table, but the singular advantage of being with people genuinely fascinated in the history of the neurosciences, is that no further justification is required. Nobody asks here, “why does neuroscience history matter”? We simply know it does.

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