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Varieties of Popular Science and the Transformations of Public Knowledge: Some Historical Reflections

Andreas W. Daum
Isis
Vol. 100, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 319-332
DOI: 10.1086/599550
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/599550
Page Count: 14
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Varieties of Popular Science and the Transformations of Public Knowledge: Some Historical Reflections
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Abstract

ABSTRACT This essay suggests that we should understand the varieties of “popular science” as part of a larger phenomenon: the changing set of processes, practices, and actors that generate and transform public knowledge across time, space, and cultures. With such a reconceptualization we can both de‐essentialize and historicize the idea of “popularization,” free it from normative notions, and move beyond existing imbalances in scholarship. The history of public knowledge might thus find a central place in many fundamental narratives of the modern world. More specifically, the essay proposes that we pay more attention to forms of knowledge outside the realm of “science,” embrace the richness, traffic, and transfer of public knowledge on a transnational scale as well as in comparative perspective, and rethink conventional forms of periodization.

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