Accepted Papers:

In Search for Global Simultaneity: The Rise and Fall of the International Glacier Commission in the Age of Nationalism, 1894-1930  


Franziska Hupfer (ETH Z├╝rich)

Paper Short Abstract:

My paper examines the history of an ambitious project, the network for world-wide glacier monitoring launched in 1894. It will examine the connections between the development of global models, transnational cooperation, and the nationalization of science.

Paper long abstract:

When meeting in Zurich in 1894, the International Congress of Geology set up a committee to encourage observations on glaciers around the world. Scientists studying in Europe had detected astonishing simultaneities in retreat or advances of glaciers. Regular world-wide surveys should now provide answers to the questions of uniformity and causes of glacier changes on global level. The initiators of the global monitoring project pursued a commission composed of one representative per glacial country. However, the members finally were mostly European and North American scientists. Their task was to collect observations for annual international reports. No standard monitoring rules were defined, since the commission considered the established methods in various countries to be too different. This procedure resulted in nonuniformity, but it helped to recruit a large number of correspondents involved in diverse national monitoring systems. The project expanded until World War I that set an end to cross-border cooperation. Not a single international glacier report was published between 1915 and 1930.

The history of the International Glacier Commission provides an opportunity to discuss the complex relation between global knowledge production and cultural nationalism. Using the example of Switzerland, my paper analyzes how the nationalization and internationalization of science were inextricably intertwined. The involvement in the global network allowed Swiss scientists to gain international reputation and to promote glaciers as the nation's most prestigious object of scientific research. Looking at nationalization from the perspective of entanglements gives way to its reinterpretation as a process that partakes in globalization.

panel P02
Closing the door on globalization: cultural nationalism and scientific internationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries