Laidlaw Interns: Siân Burkitt and Tadek Wojtych
May 24, 2016 Leave a comment
My Laidlaw project, called Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, supervised by Dr Aileen Fyfe, hopes to explore the social, cultural and economic history of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the scientific journal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The questions I wish to answer with this project (through exploring the archives of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in summer) are concerned with two aspects of the journal. The first relates to its editorial practices; in particular the way in which the Edinburgh journal was organised in comparison to its equivalent at the Royal Society in London. The other key question relates to the ways in which the Royal Society of Edinburgh funded and supported the journal.
The most exciting aspect of the project for me personally is the fact that the research I carry out over the summer will be making a contribution to Dr Aileen Fyfe’s project, ‘Publishing the Philosophical Transactions: the Social, Cultural and Economic History of a Learned Journal, 1665-2015’. It is a three year project, being carried out as part of the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary, which hopes to trace the history of the Philosophical Transactions and their larger impact in society.
My interest for this project comes from my interest in the history of science in general. Last semester, I studied the development of the atomic bomb, which drew my attention to the history of science. What I found particularly fascinating was the way in which scientists worked together across national borders, and identified themselves as being part of a global scientific community. This transnational element of science truly captured my attention and sparked my interest for my Laidlaw project. The scientific community is a global network that relies on journals such as Transactions to broadcast its ideas to the widest audience possible. Piecing together the history of this particular journal will therefore shed some light on the particular way in which scientific knowledge has been shared all over the world, regardless of borders, from the Enlightenment until the present day.
In a time of budget airlines, open borders, and Erasmus student exchange, most of us take study abroad opportunities for granted. Yet less than 30 years ago, with the iron curtain stretching from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, attending a foreign university was much more challenging. My project (Not so iron curtain. Interactions between international students and local people in Gdynia during the communist period, 1945-1989), supervised by Bernard Struck, is about the youths who plucked up the courage to apply, and about the people they encountered.
Communist Poland was a country with relatively closed borders. The society was ethnically homogenous, and a foreigner was not a common sight. My objective is to analyse the encounters between local people and the handful of international students in the city of Gdynia in the communist era. By carrying out archival research and conducting interviews with alumni and their lecturers, I want to find out how life in a racially, linguistically and religiously homogenous society affected the attitudes of Poles to foreign students. How did these contacts shape the identity of both students and locals? How was the Polish society perceived by incomers from more diverse countries (Canada, the USA), or from regions which had recently experienced foreign occupation (Korea, Vietnam)? My project aspires to be part of the broader reflection on how Europeans have treated ‘the Other’, how attitudes towards immigrants have been formed, and how contacts with foreigners affect the formation of local, national and transnational identities. Furthermore, insight into the historical background of intercultural communication can provide a meaningful contribution to the current debates about economic migration and the refugee crisis.
In the past few weeks I had a chance to meet the rest of the Laidlaw cohort and some of the last year’s interns, including my mentor, Alice Zamboni. We all represent a wide range of disciplines, and so the conversations that we had made me look at my plans and aims for the summer from new perspectives. I am grateful for the encouragement I received from those who took an interest in my project. In particular, I would like thank my supervisor, Dr Bernhard Struck, for his kind support and unfailingly inspiring discussions.