CFP: Medical Expertise in the 20th and 21st Century

Call for papers

Medical expertise in the 20th and 21st century | Medizinische Expertise im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert

Annual conference of the Swiss Society for the History of Medicine and Sciences, Bern, Switzerland

Currently we experience a crisis of expertise. It is true, experts are called for in all areas of life and on all levels of knowledge, their judgements and advice fill our talk shows, newspapers and bookshelves. But they do not provide the clarity, unambiguity and safety we long for. The statements of the acknowledged or self-proclaimed experts are to contradictory, our own standards of expertise to blurred, our desire for a democratization of expertise to strong. Does this diagnosis hold true for medicine, too? And if so, how did this happen? Some attention has been paid to the “birth” of the medical expert in the 18th century, the establishment of his professional status in the 19th century as well as to the sociology and epistemology of today’s medical expertise, but the change of the medical expert system in the 20th century has rarely been addressed. The conference would like to address the issue from various perspectives and ask e.g. the following questions: To which levels of medical knowledge and activity (skill, professional knowledge, experi-ence, relationship with patients) did and does the claim of expertise refer to? Which strategies, rheto-rics and kinds of self-fashioning were and are used in order to achieve, retain or reject the status of expertise? Which was and is the relationship between expertise, profession(nalism), institutionalization and specialization? In what respect is there a difference between a physician’s claim of expertise and that of other health professionals? Was and is there such a thing as a culture of medical expertise? How was and is medical expertise associated with the public and interwoven with politics? In what respect is medical expertise different from other kinds of scientific expertise? To what extent can models of expertise such as those developed by sociologist Harry Collins be used in order to describe the changes in 20th century medicine?

The conference is linked to the workshop for young scholars “Expertise in Medicine and Natural Sci-ences” (see

Keynote speaker: Thomas Broman, Wisconsin

Conference languages are English, German, and French. Conference format and schedule will be defined according to the number of accepted papers. Travel expenses, accomodation and meals will be covered.

Organization: Hubert Steinke, Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Bern

Please submit a one-page proposal (200-300 words) to

Deadline: March 31, 2013