Visions of Lisbon — Science, technology and medicine (STM) and the making of a techno-scientific capital (1870-1940)
Ana Simões (PI), Ana Carneiro, Ana Duarte Rodrigues, Antonio Sánchez Martínez, Carlos Godinho, Catarina Madruga, Cláudia Castelo, Ignacio Suay-Matallana, Inês Gomes, Isabel Amaral, Isabel Zilhão, Jaume Sastre, Jaume Valentines-Álvarez, Jorge Nuno Silva, José Carlos Avelãs Nunes, Maria Paula Diogo, Marta Macedo, Teresa Salomé Mota, Lídia Fernandes, Maria Fernanda Frazão, Tiago Saraiva, Agusti Nieto-Galan (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona), Mitchell Ash (University of Vienna), Thomas Misa (University of Minnesota)
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (PTDC/IVC-HFC/3122/2014)
This project contributes to the cutting-edge field of urban history of science, technology and medicine (STM), by bringing to the fore the innovative perspective provided by the detailed and comprehensive study of a specific city – Lisbon. The expertise built by team members, some of whom are founding members of the international network STEP (Science and Technology and the European Periphery) will be used to articulate the decade old field of STM urban studies with the methodological approach developed within STEP on the role of appropriation and circulation of STM knowledge and expertise from the perspective of the European periphery (Gavroglu et al., 2008). In the international scenario it will enrich STEP with the urban spatial dimension, at the same time it will bring to STM urban history the emerging discussion on the possible uses and outcomes of the novel concept of “second cities”, which stands in opposition to that of metropolis. In the national context, it will be the first time urban history will be consistently addressed from an STM perspective.
VISLIS analyses the contours of the co-construction of STM and Lisbon, by highlighting the specificities of its dual role as peripheral and imperial city. It will offer, specifically, a historical narrative articulating the STM perceptions and visions of and for Lisbon, and the actual transformation of the urban fabric in a historical period ranging from 1870, when Lisbon expanded along and away from the river Tagus, in a modernizing process contrasting with the pessimistic views shared by the country’s elite, and 1940, when imperial celebrations materialized in the grandiose exhibition organized in Lisbon, which permanently reshaped its riverbanks.
The changes in the Lisbon landscape were deeply associated with the emergence, and social and political ascendency of professional groups of experts – engineers, architects, physicians, and scientists – which established and asserted their intellectual and practical “jurisdiction” throughout the historical period under consideration. They all built up written and visual discourses on the city, sometimes bordering utopia. While many architectural and engineering plans were never implemented, a great amount materialized in physical structures. Together, they represent utopian cityscapes, in the sense of their broader social, political, economic and cultural ambitions and agendas. STM experts, working from and about Lisbon, sorted the difficult equation between the city’s local dynamics and resources, and the references appropriated from other capital cities, especially Paris. The multifarious visions of Lisbon often tying its modernization with the interests of STM experts were behind the transformation of Lisbon into the techno-scientific capital of Portugal.
Having in mind the above mentioned rationale, VISLIS is organized along four intersecting axes:
- STM institutions and spaces, and the embedment of STM practice in the city’s social and material infrastructures;
- STM experts and the struggle for hegemony, including the relationship between the politics of STM expertise and urban policies; 3) the role of STM in the written and visual including the relationship between the politics of STM expertise and urban policies;
- The role of STM in the written and visual cultural representations of the city, including utopian ones;
- STM ludic Lisbon, including STM leisure and amusement facilities.
Housed in the Interuniversity Centre for the History of Science and Technology (CIUHCT), VISLIS is fully integrated in its strategic program for 2015-2020, classified as Exceptional, and specifically on the agenda group “Experts, institutions, and globalization”, offering, additionally, to interlace it with the group on “Instruments and practices. Visual and material cultures”. A multidisciplinary team of STM senior and junior historians, including members with undergraduate degrees in sciences, engineering, architecture, design, and history of art offers the requisite multidisciplinary expertise to implement this innovative project. Besides new research to be conducted, VISLIS builds on sources and/or results of previous national FCT projects and international collaborations and networks. For that reason, the wide range of topics to be covered is perfectly feasible within the project’s time frame.
VISLIS’s outcomes will enrich the international historiography of STM in the city; write a history of Lisbon from a STM perspective; link Lisbon’s urban history to the rise of STM professions and experts; integrate a STM urban history of Lisbon in history proper; and, finally, use history of STM to contribute to enhance STM present citizenship by promoting Lisbon’s STM tourism.