CfP, VIIIth International and Interdisciplinary Congress: „Sciences, Knowledge and Politics: Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland between Europe and Amérique Latine“ (07/04-07/07/2016)

Deadline CfP: 01/05/2016

Date of conference: 07/04-07/07/2016

Location of conference: SciencesPo Paris (27 rue Saint Guillaume – 75007 Paris); IHEAL – Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique Latine (28 rue Saint Guillaume – 75007 Paris)


  • The Department of History of SciencesPo (Paris)
  • the Institute of High Studies of Latin America (IHEAL – Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3)
  • the University Paris Diderot (Paris 7)
  • the Humboldt State University of California
  • the Asociación Alexander von Humboldt (Alicante)

The objective of this event is to encourage the academic interdisciplinary debate around the political aspects of Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland’s work.

Main outlines of the Conference

Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland in the jungle, picture by Eduard Ender
Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland in the jungle, picture by Eduard Ender

(source: conference website) The research about Alexander von Humboldt has been mainly focused on the scientific aspects of his trips and studies. It has analyzed by instance his contribution to the development of the different fields of the “romantic sciences” and to the philosophy of his time. But it has also examined the 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. The historic research has enabled the public to discover numerous and important facets of the work of Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland of the scientific world of their time. On the other side, few researchers have been interested on 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 evocate 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 big campaign in front of the court in Madrid. The authors who were more interested in the scientific or picturesque aspects of his trips rarely highlighted the colonial context of his researches. To illustrate this, the book Tablas geográficas del reino de Nueva España presented by Humboldt after his journey to the Mexican viceroy, is hardly known. He describes in it the political and economic characteristics of the colonies. Even nowadays, other facets are also hardly known like the relationship between Humboldt and different political actors in Latin America, after his return to Europe. For instance, Simon Bolivar and his government, to whom he recommended regularly some specialists who were willing to work for theadministration 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 relocating them in the main advancements and political breaks 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’s debate about the Restauration and the legitimacy of the monarchy, or the raise of the nationalistic feelings in Europe. The conference will focus on the quite ambivalent and narrow 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 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 their implication mobilizing themselves against slavery, and it will be important to analyze how the scientific work of Humboldt, Bonpland and the other scientists of their time is integrated in the large movement of collection, circulation and conservation of a “State knowledge” for the colonial 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 the political use of their memoires by the diverse political regimes of the 19th and 20th century, both in Europe and Latin America.

Sessions of Conference

  • 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.


  • 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”

Organized by IHEAL, Asociación Alexander von Humboldt and Humboldt State University.

Date of seminar 07/08-07/09/2016

Location of seminar IHEAL – Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique Latine (28 rue Saint Guillaume – 75007 Paris)

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

Spoken Conference languages

  • French
  • English
  • Spanish

Participation modalities

  • Communication sections
  • Integrated panels with a maximum of 5 communications
  • Attendants without communication
  • 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 Proposals deadline (including name, modality, institutional affiliation and resume):

Proposals deadline: 01/15/2016

Including name, modality, institutional affiliation and resume. Deadline for the acceptance notifications: 02/15/2016

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, for budgetary reasons, 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:

Please send the wire to the following account number of the “Asociación Alexander von Humboldt” in Alicante, Spain:


IBAN ES25 0081 1213 5000 0110 2821


Please send the wire proof to:, mentioning the following reason: „REGISTRATION“


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 national d’Histoire naturelle)
  • Jean-Paul Duviols (Université de Paris IV – Sorbonne)
  • 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)

Website of the Conference

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