A pinboard by
Katrina Ponti

PhD Student, University Of Rochester


A scientific revitalization of American diplomatic history

Diplomatic history conjures up images of great men brokering deals to end wars and to negotiate trade. Almost no one thinks of scientists as diplomats. I propose to alter this image by researching American doctors and scientists that lived and worked in Europe between 1789-1815. I argue that these men actually made background connections that made possible the larger diplomatic achievements known to American history such as the Jay Treaty and the Treaty of Ghent. Their social status and education afforded them access to a variety of social circles from which they could gather information and form friendships that were later beneficial to American diplomatic efforts.


The pillar of metropolitan greatness: The long making of archeological objects in Paris (1711-2001).

Abstract: Over three centuries after the 1711 discovery in the choir of Notre-Dame in Paris of a square-section stone bas-relief (the Pillar of the Boatmen) with depictions of several deities, both Gaulish and Roman, the blocks comprising it were analyzed as a symbol of Parisian power, if not autonomy, vis-à-vis the Roman Empire. Variously considered as local, national, or imperial representations, the blocks were a constant object of admiration, interrogation, and speculation among antiquarians of the Republic of Letters. They were also boundary objects - products of the emergence of a Parisian archeology dated from 1711. If this science reflected the tensions and ambiguities of a local regime of knowledge situated in a national context, it also helped to coordinate archeological work between different institutions and actors. This paper would like to assess the specific role played by the Pillar of the Boatmen as a fetish object in this process. To what extent could an archeological artifact influence this reshaping of urban representation, this change of scales? By following the three-century career of the pillar's blocks as composite objects, which some have identified as merely stones or a column, it is possible to understand the multiple dimensions that defined the object as archeological - as an artifact that contributed to the relocating of the historical city center - and the multiple approaches that transform existing remains into knowledgeable objects.

Pub.: 12 Apr '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17

Reframing knowledge in colonization: Plebeians and municipalities in the environmental expertise of the Spanish Atlantic.

Abstract: Promoting a better understanding of the phenomenon of colonization and its connection with environmental knowledge and technology, this article proposes a reframing of research agendas to take into account the municipal character of colonization in the Hispanic realm and to ask new questions. Questions should address what human-ecosystem relations, and the ways of knowing and techniques for transforming the physical realm, can tell us about colonization itself; who the historical agents involved were, and what these actors knew, learned, and did in their environments. Using the Basin of Mexico's drainage and the agency of commoners, this article proposes that colonization depends on the massive deployment and generation of tacit knowledge about how to harness matter, energy, and time for the reproduction of human societies; the quotidian appropriation and reworking of autochthonous knowledge, techniques, and technology by the colonizing groups; the collaboration of the local populations in whom these are vested; and the agency of commoners with practical skills, environmental knowledge, and technological savvy derived from and honed in the realm of material production. In the Ibero-American realm, these agents were primarily commoners with skills in agropastoral production and the building trades; race, ethnicity, language, and gender were secondary conditions.

Pub.: 11 May '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17