SciFair is a Starting Grant ERC project (2020) led by Nele Wynants - CiASp, Faculty of Letters, Translation et Communication

Coordinated by Nele Wynants - Centre de recherche en Cinéma et Arts du Spectacle (CiASp), Faculty of Letters, Translation and Communication - Science at the Fair (SCIFAIR) aims to conduct pioneering research on the role itinerant showpeople played in the transmission and popularization of science and technology at Western European fairgrounds between 1850 and 1914. 

At a time when modern communication media were not yet in place and only a minority of the population could read, large groups of people were actually dependent on travelling performances and displays for information: in so-called anatomical cabinets, zoological and anthropological museums and scientific theatres, showpeople demonstrated ‘wonders of nature’ and spectacular scientific developments.

The project advances the hypothesis that the fair in this period was not merely a local folk tradition, but a hub for international exchange in which itinerant entertainment played a pivotal and modernising role in the circulation and popularisation of science amongst people across the social spectrum, relying on efficient international networks. In order to test this hypothesis,

Nele Wynants will bring together a multilingual and multidisciplinary team to analyse practices of science performance across national boundaries and map transnational networks of Western European fairground theatres. The researchers will not only study explicit didactic discourses but also analyse how implicit knowledge and social values of health, gender, nation, class or race were challenged or reinforced.

crédit photo ULB-Isopix

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC)
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No GA 948678).

Created on September 3, 2020