I carried out the field work for ‘Homer in the Laboratory’ in 2015, spending 12 weeks in total in an applied microbiology laboratory. Lab work has always fascinated me and my book, Science, Culture and Society: Understanding Science in the 21st Century (Polity 2016), has extensive descriptions and analysis of laboratory work (not the same laboratory as in the ‘Homer’ project). However, where the method there was fairly standard – participant observation and sociological analysis – my field work for the Homer project was unconventional to some degree. I was using participant observation but rather than analysing this sociologically and writing an ‘academic’ text I was going to try and produce something ‘Homeric’. I was immersing myself in the culture and activities of the laboratory, but also the Iliad and the world of academic Homeric scholarship. Although I spent my time in the lab highly engaged with activities, I was also waiting for the Muse to come and visit me to help me write some verses. I’d never written any poetry before, let alone ‘epic verse’, so I was pretty sure I would need some help from Calliope (see Iliad 2: 484-88 for Homer’s account of how the Muses helped the to write the ‘Catalogue of the Ships’, and Hesiod Theogony 79-80 where Calliope is described as the greatest of all the Muses).
Which did happen, eventually. I will post the full poems here in the future, but I thought it would be appropriate at this point to share the ‘formal’ publication that I produced from my research (which was published this week). This has taken some time to appear, a result of a) a long gestation process, b) trying to find an appropriate journal, and c) a certain trepidation on my part concerning the reception it may receive. It is a rather curious hybrid of sociology of science, STS, poetry, criticism and Homeric scholarship.
Although I’m still not too sure what to make of the whole project I’m very pleased to see the paper appear in Social Epistemology, and I’m grateful to the editor and reviewers for their helpful comments and insights pre-publication.
You can read the paper here – the publishers provide 50 free downloads from this link: