Brooke Penaloza-Patzak will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, April 22, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “Objects as Data, and in the Formation of Practice and Knowledge: A Short History of Beringian Collections in the Natural and Human Sciences”

At its narrowest point, the Bering Strait separates the continents of Asia and North America by just eighty-five kilometers. The name for this area, believed to have been bridged by the mammoth steppe up until some 12,000 years ago, is Beringia. During the mid-nineteenth century, archeological evidence and the realization that the eastern-most corner of the Russian Empire was within a laborious but feasible canoe ride of North America spurred speculation that the “New World” had been populated via the Bering Strait. Proponents of the Beringia migration theory hypothesized that analysis of material from either side of the Strait would help elucidate the relationships between the old and new worlds, and the nature of human diffusion and affinity more generally. In 1867 the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire, and by the 1880s, a diverse international jumble of scholars had converged on Beringia, in search of evidence with which to investigate this theory. With a focus on the intersections of scientific practice and knowledge with economics and politics, this talk investigates objects as scientific data in theory and practice, offers a brief history of collection in Beringia, and discusses what shifts in data deemed suitable to support investigation can tell us about not only historical perspectives on ever-pressing issues like human difference and climate change, but processes of scientific specialization more broadly.


Historian Brooke Penaloza-Patzak investigates how the interplay of researchers and their material data has shaped methodological development in and between the natural and human sciences from the 18th to 20th centuries. She earned a PhD from the University of Vienna, Department of History, and is currently an FWF Erwin Schrödinger Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Department of the History and Sociology of Science.
This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event.