Masterclass Gadi Algazi – Taking it personally: applying concepts of selfhood to the history of science

Date: 27th of November 2014
Time: 13.00 – 17.00
Venue: Conference Room, Huizinga-building, Doelensteeg 16, Leiden
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates
Fee (non-members): € 50,00
Organisers: Léjon Saarloos (LEI) & Katharina Manteufel (LEI)
Registration (before 15 November 2014)

This masterclass aims to bring together cultural historians and historians of science for a discussion of current analytical approaches to notions of selfhood in their fields. How can these theoretical concepts be fruitfully applied to historical research on the “making of science”? What can be achieved by shifting attention from practices or products to the person of the practitioner? And what are the merits of different conceptual tools? The masterclass welcomes both research master and doctoral students and offers them an opportunity to enhance the conceptual framework of their current or future projects. It provides a platform for discussing and reflecting on their own work, under the auspices of one of the leading historians on the topic of the scholarly self.

The introductory reading will familiarize the participants with Gadi Algazi’s work, which concerns the configuration of the learned habitus in early modern times, from the perspective of historical anthropology. Historicizing the very idea of ‘being a scholar’, he investigates shifts in the meaning of scholarly selfhood that occurred with, and allowed for adopting to, changing circumstances of life and learning. For example, Algazi writes on the emergence of the proverbial scholarly absent-mindedness at a time when learned men were exchanging the celibate lifestyle cultivated in medieval convents or at court for domestic family life. Concepts of the scholarly habitus, persona and techniques of the self are central to Algazi’s work. Thus, his approach provides an inspiring example, and much food for thought, regarding the application of the theoretical toolkit to research in different contexts.

Participants can either present a paper or participate in the discussion only (for exact requirements, see below). In his opening remarks to the masterclass, Gadi Algazi will focus on some key issues of his conceptual framework, in relation to the cases submitted for presentation. What notion of culture underlies our focus on personae? What are the problems of the habitus concept? Do personae matter equally in all disciplines, in different historical times? Following his introduction, there will be room for general questions regarding the preparatory literature. Subsequently, the main focus of the afternoon will be the discussion of the participants’ projects, stimulated by Algazi’s feedback.

Gadi Algazi (Tel Aviv, 1961) obtained his PhD at the University of Göttingen and is now professor of history at the University of Tel Aviv. He published extensively on medieval and early-modern history, on topics ranging from the history of the gift as a social transaction to the scholarly self. Central in all of his work is the interplay between material, cultural and social structures and historical agency in mundane practices. In addition to his editorial work for several academic journals, Gadi Algazi publishes on contemporary Israeli politics. During his visit to the Netherlands, he will be one of the keynote speakers of the 2014 historians’ congress Naar eer en geweten. Beroepsethiek en de persona van de historicus of the KNHG (Koninklijk Nederlands Historisch Genootschap) on Friday the 28th of November. This event is organised by the Huizinga Institute in cooperation with the KNHG and Leiden University.


13:00-13:30Introduction by Gadi Algazi and opening remarks, room for general questions regarding the preparatory literature.
13:30-15:00First session of presentations, followed by feedback and group discussion
15:00-15:15Coffee break
15:15-16:45Second session of presentations, followed by feedback and group discussion
16:45Evaluation round and closing remarks
17:00Drinks at café Pakhuis (next to the Huizinga building)

Preparation and readings

  • Gadi Algazi, ‘At the Study: Notes on the Production of the Scholarly Self’, in: David Warren Sabean and Malina Stefanovska (eds.), Space and Self in Early Modern European Cultures (Toronto 2012) 17-50.
  • Gadi Algazi, ‘Scholars in Households: Refiguring the Learned Habitus, 1480-1550’, Science in Context 16 (2003) 9-42.
  • Gadi Algazi, ‘Food for Thought. Hieronymus Wolf Grapples with the Scholarly Habitus’, in: Rudolf Dekker (ed)., Egodocuments and History: Autobiographical Writing in its Social Context since the Middle Ages (Hilversum 2002) 21-43.
  • Lorraine Daston and Otto Sibum, ‘Introduction: Scientific Personae and Their Histories’, Science in Context 16 (2003) 1-8.
  • Papers submitted by participants presenting their own research.


All participants are expected to prepare the assigned literature carefully, in order to contribute actively and constructively to the group discussion.

2 ECTS: Applicants who wish to discuss their own project are required to submit a 3000-4000 word paper in advance, and give a presentation during the masterclass, in which they relate their own research to the topics and concepts addressed in the preparatory literature. Presentation papers are to be submitted one week in advance, on November 20 at the very latest. Further information on format and maximum duration of the presentation will be provided shortly after the registration deadline, depending on the number of applicants.

1 ECTS: Other applicants are expected, in addition to their preparation and active participation, to submit a 2000 word paper afterwards, in which they reflect on new ideas, insights and perspectives the session has provided. The deadline for submitting reflection papers is December 15.

After successfully completing all the requirements for this masterclass, participants can obtain a certificate of the credits upon request ( With this certificate they can validate the credits at their own local Graduate School.