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Dr. Paulina Gennermann

Research Assistant

  • Research Interests

    - History of Flavours and Fragrances
    - History of Smell and Taste
    - History and Development of Psychopharmacology
    - Interrelations and entanglements of science-economics-society
    - Naturalness and Normality
    - Science in Global and Colonial Perspectives

  • Habilitation Project

    Chemical Influencers: Normalisation and Naturalisation of Mind, Behaviour, and Psychoactive Substances in the 20th Century (working title)
    - This project is in its initial phase. Specific case studies and countries might change during the research. -

    Generally, the introduction of chlorpromazine during the 1950s is understood as a game changing moment in psychiatry. It is widely regarded as the first effective drug in psychiatric therapy and the starting point of psychopharmacology. In the following decades, psychoactive pharmaceuticals became common substances and lucrative products in the chemical-pharmaceutical industry. At the same time, scientific and social circumstances influenced the interpretation and classification of what was to be considered ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ in the context of chemical-pharmaceutical substances, states of mind, and behaviour. 
    Following the developments in the second half of the twentieth century, chemical substances became instruments for normalising anomalous behaviour and states of mind. This implies complex entanglements of chemical-pharmaceutical substances with clinical, scientific, industrial, and social factors. Therefore, my project is concerned with the historical analysis of the normalisation and naturalisation of mind, behaviour, and psychoactive substances from the 1940s to the 1990s.
    My project follows five assumptions. First, normalisation and naturalisation are interrelated and entangled phenomena. Second, the differentiation between drug and remedy as well as between effect and side effect depends on the interpretation of what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. Third, normalisation and naturalisation have local specificities, but are globalised phenomena. Fourth, cultural, social, and industrial factors have a huge impact on the perception and interpretation of ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. Finally, scientific and therapeutic cultures determined the perception and interpretation of ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ as well. 
    To highlight the impact of cultural, political, economic, social, and scientific aspects on normalisation and naturalisation processes, the geographical focus is on Brazil and (West-)Germany. The differing developments of both nations in terms of (post-)colonialism, (post-)imperialism, immigration, and slavery provide an interesting point of comparison between a South American former colonial nation and a former European imperial power.
    My analysis will focus on three principal aspects: First, the infrastructure, the standing, and the image of psychopharmacology. By analysing the development and implementation of the scientific network around psychoactive substances, it is possible to examine the scientific and therapeutic cultures by highlighting the interaction of chemistry, neurosciences, and psychiatry. Second, the pharmaceutical industry. Studying marketing and production strategies helps to decipher the standing and image of psychoactive pharmaceuticals in psychiatry and society. Third, medical and political regulations such as official guidelines of the World Health Organisation and national legislation. These directives give an insight in the juridical expression of normalisation and naturalisation of psychoactive substances, states of mind, and behaviour. 

  • Curriculum Vitae

    2019-2023 PhD Bielefeld University, Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology
    2016-2019 Master of Arts, Bielefeld University, “History, Economics, and Philosophy of Science”
    2012-2016 Bachelor of Arts/Licence, Bielefeld University/Université Paris Diderot, History and Biology

    Awards and Scholarships
    Bettina-Haupt-Förderpreis für Geschichte der Chemie 2024
    Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC), Research Award 2023, 1000£
    Commission on the History of Chemistry and Molecular Sciences, Reisestipendium für die
    13ICHC, Vilnius (23.-27.05.2023)
    Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Promotionsstipendium (09.2020-12.2022)
    Bielefelder Nachwuchsfonds, Sach- und Reisemittel (2021-2022)

    Fellow at Young ZiF, Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung, Universität Bielefeld
    Gesellschaft für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, der Medizin und der Technik
    German Chemical Society (GDCh), Section for the History of Chemistry 
    Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC)
    Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (I²SOS Bielefeld)

  • Publications

    „Becoming Natural: The Naturalization of Synthetic Flavors in the Twentieth Century and the Introduction of Konsumstoff“, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 46, Nr. 4 (2023): 303-319, DOI: 10.1002/bewi.202300016.
    Eine Geschichte mit Geschmack. Die Natur synthetischer Aromastoffe im 20. Jahrhundert am Beispiel Vanillin (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2023), DOI: 10.1515/9783111190297.

  • Conferences and Presentations

    Conference organization “Chemical Connections: Studying Interdisciplinarity through the history of a discipline”, 04.-07.10.2023, ZiF Bielefeld; talk: “Tasting flavors and smelling fragrances” with Carsten Reinhardt

    Input in „Conversations on the History of Chemistry 3. Food, toxicity and the life sciences”, 15.06.2023

    Presentation at 13ICHC Vilnius: „The naturalization of chemical substances:How synthetic flavors became natural during the 20th century“, 24.05.2023