Verena Lehmbrock: Thinking muck

Hands-on Agriculture. Conceptualizing the Empirical in German Agricultural Enlightenment.

Verena Lehmbrock is a PhD student at the History of Science Institute at the University of Jena.

This picture of a shepherdess is from Jean Francois Millet, who was a son of a rich peasant family and a french painter in the 19th century. He produced numerous paintings on rural scenes and I like the fact that Millet was at least a bit acquainted with the forms of life he portrayed.

My post is about a talk I’m going to give at the Rural History Conference in Bern in August 2013 and it is also a chapter of my dissertation about the entanglement of rural and academic forms of knowledge in German agricultural enlightenment:

Notions of the empirical can be linked with a crucial feature of German agricultural discourse during the long 18th century. On the one hand, pointing to long-term experience and a direct connection to the land could serve as a selling point on book titles. On the other hand, there was harsh polemical resistance throughout the century against practice-oriented strategies to achieve agricultural improvement. Contemporary sources suggest that contact with the soil was seen as a lowly practice heavily loaded with cultural bias and that for learned protagonists it therefore entailed certain risks of exclusion from polite discourse. Nevertheless, we find that physical acquaintance with the land became a more and more indispensable claim amongst agricultural improvers. Drawing from statements of peasant farmers, academics, landlords (Gutsbesitzer) and state officials I intend to elaborate on those ambivalent evaluations of the empirical as a source for agricultural knowledge. Considering the economical Enlightenment as an arena for epistemological struggle, I thus interpret it as a showcase for the entanglement of social and epistemic factors in intellectual history.

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Categories: Forschungszentrum, Gastbeiträge

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