Working on five manuscripts

The ultimate goal for humanities scholars is to write books about the topics we engage in — we don’t “do research” as scientists do, we “write a book”.

Me too. I’m currently writing on two book-length manuscripts simultaneously (#1 and #2), which will probably take me five years to complete. And if I live another 10-15 years I would like to write two additional books that relate to this project: one that sums up my views about ‘doing’ contemporary history of science (#3), and another one that sums up my post-marxist ideas about an emerging new mode of production and new mode of distribution of satisfaction of needs (#4).

I’m also thinking of editing an anthology about the the ageing scholar/academic/professional (#5).

#1  A memoir

First, and most importantly, I’m continuously writing on the actual account of my life, i.e., a memoir (or autobiography). It’s a very subjective account, written with the voice of a authorial first person (‘I’). I write it in my native language, Swedish, because my ambitions are literary rather than scholarly; I want to experiment with different formats of writing, and therefore I need to have absolute control over the language.

I have not yet decided whether I want to make the memoir public or not; I have no illusions about other people having any special interest in the moderate achievements, joys and vexations of my life, so if the manuscript doesn’t have high enough literary qualities, I will probably prefer to keep it in my electronic drawer, to be opened after my death. (And therefore I don’t have any tentative title for the book yet.)

#2  Reflections on autobiography and ageing

The second book-length manuscript is an edited version of the reflections that I accumulate on this website and on Facebook and other social media in the course of writing the memoir manuscript. This book will be much more scholarly than literary; I will my discuss my reflections in the light of the literature on successful ageing, autobiography as a genre, care-of-self, ars moriendi, etc., and exemplify the discussion with illustrations from the memoir and archival material. Tentative title: Graceful Ageing in Academia: Scientific Memoirs as Care of the Scholarly Self.

#3  ‘Doing’ history of contemporary science?

I spent most of my academic career writing history of 20C science (history of ecology and the history of immunology), including two edited volumes, in 1997 and 2006, respectively, on the methodology of writing the history of contemporary science, technology and medicine. Since than I have added the experience of collecting, curating and displaying contemporary biomedicine, and the experience of writing autobiography. So what I would like to do is a sequel to the two earlier collected volumes, a monograph tentatively titled The Historiography of Contemporary Science – III.

#4  A Managed World

Finally, almost every day when I read the news, I’m reminded about my aborted project on the new managerial society, which I gave up, in 1989, in favour of biography writing. Much has happened in the world since, and much has been written about the future of post-capitalism, but I cannot stop thinking about it. So I’m still dreaming of writing up all the ideas about an emerging new mode of production, and new mode of distribution of satisfaction of needs, that have matured in my head over the last 3o years, and which seem to be increasingly topical in these troubled times. Tentative title: Memoir writing in a Managed World.

#5  Anthology on scholarly autobiography?

Furthermore, I’m tempted to publish a collection of commissioned articles on scholarly autobiography.  To make this happen, I would probably have to organize a conference on the poetics of scholarly autobiography — something like a follow-up on the very pleasurable conference on scientific biography, which I organized in Magleås in northern Zealand in 2002 (published as The History and Poetics of Scientific Biography in 2007). But then I would need some external money and practical help …