Faculty of Social Sciences

Staffan Müller-Wille: "From Travel Diary to Species Catalogue"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Office for History of Science

Staffan Müller-Wille, Professor of History of Science at University of Exeter: "From Travel Diary to Species Catalogue: How Linnaeus Came to See Lapland"


Abstract
In the summer of 1732, the Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus journeyed through Lapland. His travel account is not only often cited as the earliest first-hand account of Lapland by a naturalist and ethnographer, but also known as a founding piece of Swedish literature. We approach the journal from yet another angle. Linnaeus's travel diary offers an excellent opportunity to explore how knowledge was created in translation, that is, in encounters with people who, like Linnaeus, were mostly on the move and spoke more than one language: guides and servants, settlers, soldiers, priests, traders, reindeer herders. Linnaeus himself already promoted the idea that Lapland was “entirely foreign”—as stagnant as it was remote in order to bolster his credentials as an objective naturalist and to project his own visions of a bright economic future onto the marshes and highlands of Lapland. Yet a close reading of his journal reveals that he was on a guided tour, eagerly collecting information provided by people that helped him find his way through what was, after all, not a green empty space, but a dynamic meshwork: the product of intersections and interactions through which the North, its nature, and its inhabitants were constructed.