CfP ESHS 2022: The Office as a place of production, adaptation and circulation of scientific and academic knowledge

Annette Lykknes's picture
Call for Papers
December 17, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Economic History / Studies, History Education, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Social History / Studies


While the laboratory as a site of research has been amply studied by historians and sociologists, less attention has been given to the academic office as a place of production, adaptation and circulation of scientific and academic knowledge. Public discourse on the built environment for academic work is today to a large degree dominated by cost-efficiency thinking, and the idea of so-called open, activity-based office spaces has been met with resistance from academic staff. Temple (2008) asserts that the purpose of teaching and learning spaces, including how the offices are used, has to a large extent been absent from accounts on campus design.

And while there is abundant scholarship demonstrating the promises and pitfalls of activity-based open-plan workspaces (Kaufman-Buhler 2020), little is known about the importance, functions, and meaning of individual offices for academic work, and to which extent and how academics use the individual offices as a multipurpose and flexible workplace. Coming from the field of education and management, Ruth (2015) points to the importance of materiality in academic life, including the furnishing of stuff and things in the office, and how that material contexts help shape academics’ identities.

In this symposium, we intend to investigate the office and other built environments for academic work as places of scientific knowledge production and circulation through history. We are interested in understanding these places and spaces both from the institutional history point of view, as a part of strategic planning and university policy, and from the point of view of the individual historical actor: Which role did the built environments play in the professor’s professional life, and how did they contribute to shaping scientific and scholarly identities in different historic and geographic contexts? How have academics used the individual office as a multipurpose and flexible workplace?

Contributions may address topics including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The historical importance of the built environment for academic work
  • The organization and planning of research and teaching in academia
  • The material conditions for knowledge production in higher education institutions
  • The role of built environments in academia for shaping professional identities
  • The office and the material culture of science, and as academic heritage
  • The office as a gendered learning space, as an individual vs. collective space of teaching and learning, as a hierarchical space


Interested contributors are invited to send an abstract of maximum 250 words and a bio of maximum 50 words to Thomas Brandt ( and Annette Lykknes ( no later than 17 December. Please also include your current affiliation.

Contact Info: 

Annette Lykknes

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