Dr. Valentina Mann

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I am a historian of ideas with a particular interest in the emergence of social scientific knowledge in nineteenth-century Europe. I completed my doctoral research on ‘Theories of the mind and the disciplining of anthropology, c.1875-1914’ in 2021 at the University of Cambridge.

My current book project examines a series of mid-nineteenth-century debates regarding the limits of human knowledge and traces their lasting impact on scholars who helped institutionalize fields such as anthropology, psychology, and anthropology. Chapters cover Europe and North America and reconstruct two interrelated developments: scholars’ attempts to find a shared vocabulary for disagreement and critique that did not undermine their scientific standing, and how a sense of epistemic failure informed their increasing emphasis on ‘race’ and ‘culture’ (and attendant translations) as determinants of human worth and behaviour.

My next project will examine the discrepancy between theory and practice through a case study of the ‘sciences of crime’ in post-unification Italy.