The charlatan (or quack) is a historical character defined by his itinerant existence. Traveling from one marketplace to another, dealing in exotic objects and remedies, organizing shows and exhibitions, performing miraculous cures by appealing to the healing power of words and medicaments, charlatans have traversed Europe since medieval times. Far from being confined to certain countries or regions, they were everywhere, repeating almost the same sales strategies, the same words, the same sequence of performances. This lecture presents the network of itinerant characters that circulated antiquities, photographs, remedies, and natural history collections in South America from the 1860s to the 1880s, in order to shed light on the role of traveling conmen, quacks, and charlatans as agents of the circulation of knowledge.
Irina Podgorny is a tenured member of the Argentinian science council, Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), at the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo of the University in La Plata. Podgorny’s research focuses on the history of science, with a special emphasis on the history of archaeological and paleontological collections and natural history museums. She is the 2015 Weiss visiting scholar for history of science at Barnard.
Co-sponsored by Barnard College, the Center for Science & Society, the Institute for Latin American Studies, and the Forum on Migration.