Sciences, Knowledge and Politics: Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland between Europe and Latin America. 8th International and Interdisciplinary Conference

Sciences Po /IHEAL Paris
Sciences Po Paris, IHEAL/Univ. Paris 3, Univ. Paris 7, Humboldt State University of California, Asociación Alexander von Humboldt (Alicante)
04.07.2016 - 07.07.2016
Jakob Vogel

The Department of History of SciencesPo (Paris), the Institute of High Studies of Latin America (IHEAL - Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3) and the University Paris Diderot (Paris 7), in collaboration with the Humboldt State University of California and the Asociación Alexander von Humboldt (Alicante), are pleased to invite the international academic community for the call for papers of the 8th International and Interdisciplinary Congress “Sciences, Knowledge and Politics: Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland between Europe and Latin America” which will take place in Paris between 4th and 7th of July 2016.

The conference aims to encourage interdisciplinary debate around the political aspects of Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland’s work.

Main outlines of the Conference

Historical research about Alexander von Humboldt has mainly focused on the scientific aspects of his travels and studies. It has analyzed for instance his contribution to the development of the different fields of the “romantic sciences” and to the philosophy of his time. Historians have also examined Humboldt’s relationships with other explorers and scientists, in order to consider the results of the diffusion of knowledge between Latin America and Europe and other parts of the world. Historic research has placed Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland in the scientific world of their time. Little research, however, has been devoted to the political aspects of their investigation.

For instance, from the 19th century on, the stories and representations of Humboldt’s travels in Latin America with the French botanist Bonpland do not mention the fact that Humboldt needed a passport from the “Consejo de Indias” in order to stay at the Spanish New World. He obtained it only after a sustained campaign in front of the court in Madrid. The imperial context of their research has largely been ignored. The Tablas geográficas del reino de Nueva España presented by Humboldt after his journey to the Mexican viceroy, is amongst his least well known. He describes in it the political and economic context of the colonies. Other facets are also hardly known like the relationship between Humboldt and different political actors in Latin America, after his return to Europe. Humboldt advised Simon Bolivar and his government, on specialists who might be willing to work for the administration of the different independent states.

Following this perspective, the conference will analyze the different political dimensions of the work and the life of Humboldt and Bonpland, by locating them in the main political currents and ruptures of their time: the world conflicts around the Napoleonic empire, the new political map in Europe and in the world after Napoleon’s fall, but also the world wide debate about the Restauration and the legitimacy of the monarchy and the rise of nationalism in Europe.

The conference will focus on the quite ambivalent and close relationships that Humboldt and his companion, as scientists, had with the European courts and the political and administrative circle of their time. The challenge will also be to get to know their position regarding the liberal movements in Europe and in the Americas and the independence of the Iberian New World. At the same time it is necessary to analyze the implication of their mobilization against slavery (publication of Essais politiques sur l’Ile de Cuba et le Mexique in 1826), and it will be important to analyze how the scientific work of Humboldt, Bonpland and the other scientists of their time was integrated in the large movement of collection, circulation and conservation of a “State knowledge” for the imperial State in the particular context of the reconfiguration of the political relationship between Europe and Latin America (as detailed on Tablas geográficas del reino de Nueva España). Finally, it will be essential as well to ask ourselves about their location in the politics of memory pursued by diverse political regimes of the 19thand 20thcentury, both in Europe and in Latin America.

Proposed conference sections

- Humboldt, Bonpland and the Spanish monarchy.
- Natural history of Latin America: a State’s knowledge.
- Statistics in Latin America in the first half of the 19th century.
- Administrative history of Humboldt’s and Bonpland’s travels.
- Humboldt as seen by the Portuguese and Brazilian Empire.
- European scientists and Latin-American scientists: an encounter between two worlds?
- Humboldt, Bonpland and the slavery question in the Americas.
- Bonpland in Argentina and Paraguay: a European in front of the new Latin-American States.
- Humboldt, Bonpland and Bolivar: the European scientists and the Latin American independence.
- The myth and reception of Humboldt and Bonpland in Latin America at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Humboldt and Bonpland and the defense of Human Rights.

Confirmed keynote speakers
Miguel de Asúa (UBA/ CONICET/ Argentina), José Enrique Covarrubias (UNAM Mexico), Ottmar Ette (Universität Potsdam/BBAW Berlin), Pablo Penchaszadeh (CONICET/Buenos Aires), Jürgen Renn (MPIWG, Berlin)

Complementary Seminar “Scientific travelers between Europe and Latin America in the 19th century”

After the Congress, the complementary seminar “Scientific travelers between Europe and Latin America in the 19th century” will take place at IHEAL (28 rue Saint Guillaume) on 8th and 9th of July 2016, organized by IHEAL, Asociación Alexander von Humboldt and Humboldt State University.
The following themes and specific sections of the Seminar will be:
- Scientifics travelling back and forth to France and Latin America.
- Emigration and immigration transatlantic travels (Latin America, Europe).
Directors of the Seminar: Pablo Penchaszadeh (CONICET/Argentina) and Irene Prüfer (UA/Spain).

Spoken Conference languages
French, English and Spanish.

Participation modalities
1. Communication sections
2. Integrated panels with a maximum of 5 communications
3. Attendants without communication
4. Congress and seminar attendants with specific seminar communications

The Congress is open to researchers and PHD students and to all those interested in the themes covered by the conference.

Those persons interested in participating with communication (individually or around a round table) are asked to send their communication title, a maximum of five keywords and a summary of about 1500-2000 words to the following institutional email of the conference:
Each proposal in English, French or Spanish will be submitted to consideration of the Scientific Committee. The acceptance of papers and panels will be officially notified by email before January 30th 2016.


Proposals deadline (including name, modality, membership and resume): 20/12/2015
Deadline for the acceptance notifications: 30/01/2015

Registration fees (for all modalities)

- Until February 29th 2016: 150€
- Starting March 1st 2016: 200€
- PHD students: 50€ (after March 1st 2016: 80€)
- Complementary seminar: Additional registration fee: 50€

The organizing committee will try –depending on their budgetary possibility – to grant a limited number of fellowships to help young researchers to finance their participation to the congress. Nevertheless, the amount will not cover the entirety of the fees and will depend on each individual case. Every person interested in applying for a fellowship is asked to send a letter justifying their request to the following email address:

Fees instructions

Please send the wire to the following account number of the “Asociación Alexander von Humboldt” in Alicante, Spain:
IBAN/BIC: ES25 0081 1213 5000 0110 2821 SWIFT: BSAB ESBB

Please send the wire proof to:, mentioning the following reason: Registration

For more information, please visit:


Organizing committee
- Prof. Dr. Lilianet Brintrup (Humbold State University, California)
- Prof. Dr. Charlotte de Castelnau L’Estoile (Université Paris 7)
- Prof. Dr. Olivier Compagnon (Université Paris 3 - IHEAL, Paris)
- Prof. Dr. Irene Prüfer (Asociación Alexander von Humboldt, Alicante)
- Prof. Dr. Jakob Vogel (SciencesPo, Paris)

Scientific committee
Aurora Arbelo de Mazzaro (Instituto de Cultura, Corrientes/Argentina), Miguel de Asúa (UBA/ CONICET/ Argentina), Marie-Noëlle Bourguet (Paris 7), Charlotte de Castelnau L’Estoile (Paris 7), Olivier Compagnon (Paris 3 - IHEAL), José Enrique Covarrubias (UNAM), Jean Marc-Drouin (Muséum nacional d’Histoire naturelle), Jean-Paul Duviols (Université de Paris 4), Michel Espagne (ENS/CNRS/Paris), Ottmar Ette (Universität Potsdam/BBAW Berlin), Stefanie Gänger (Universität Köln), Pilar González Bernaldo (Paris 7), Frank Holl (Münchener Wissenschaftstage), Annick Lempérière (Paris 1), Consuelo Naranjo (CSIC Madrid), Pablo Penchaszadeh (CONICET/Argentina), Irene Prüfer Leske (UA), Kapil Raj (EHESS), Jürgen Renn (MPIWG, Berlin), Jakob Vogel (SciencesPo)


Irene Prüfer

Universität Alicante

Sciences, Knowledge and Politics: Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland between Europe and Latin America. 8th International and Interdisciplinary Conference, 04.07.2016 – 07.07.2016 Paris, in: H-Soz-Kult, 20.11.2015, <>.