Science Across Regions in Asia
This group engages questions regarding the deconstruction of imperial visions and definitions of the sciences in Asia, and explores how new work can contribute to the diversification of perspectives in the history of science.
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Friday, January 27, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST
Marjan Wardaki (Yale), "The Birth of Modern ‘ilm : Between Indo-German Theosophy and Islamicate Philosophy"
Friday, February 24, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EST
Histories of Science in Latin America and Asia: A Conversation Across Regions
Friday, March 24, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Alexander Statman (UCLA), “Canal: Cross-Cultural Encounters and the Control of Water"
Duygu Yildirim (University of Tennessee), "Coffee: Of Melancholic Turkish Bodies and Sensory Experiences"
Discussant: Ahmed Ragab (Johns Hopkins University)
Friday, April 28, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Paper Discussion: 'Revolutionary Vision: Myopia, Socialist Youth and Public Health Campaigns in China (1960-1976)’
Yixue Yang (University of California, San Diego)
Discussant: Dora Vargha (Humboldt University Berlin)
Friday, May 26, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Shireen Hamza (Harvard) and Eric Moses Gurevitch (Vanderbilt), "The Promise of Medieval Sciences, the Perils of Global History."
Friday, June 23, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm EDT
Siddhartha Mukherjee (Jawaharlal Nehru University), "Controlling the Currents: Electricity Crisis and State Response in Delhi during the Second World War"
Discussant: Victor Seow (Harvard University)
October 28, 2022
Book Discussion: Buddhism and Medicine Across Asia
Pierce Salguero, A Global History of Buddhism and Medicine (Columbia University Press, 2021).
Discussant: Anthony Cerulli (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
June 24, 2022
Elise Burton (University of Toronto), "A Lexicon of Science"
May 27, 2022
Sayori Ghoshal (Columbia University), "Experts of Identities: Race, Religion and Caste in Nationalist Science, India 1920-50"
Discussant: Sandra Widmer (York University)
How did the fluid, local and contingent identities in precolonial India become fixed, naturalized and pan-Indian in colonial India? What was the role of colonial knowledge and anticolonial nationalism in this history of identities? How did the religious, caste-based and ethnic identities become the site for decolonising scientific knowledge? Introducing anthropometry and race science in late 19th century India, the British colonial state mapped India’s various caste and religious communities as disparate races, civilizationally inferior to Europeans. As an anticolonial response, Indian scientists rejected the claim that Europeans were racially superior to Indians. However, they did not dismiss race itself as a scientific object. In this paper, I demonstrate how, in reconfiguring physical anthropology, serology and statistics as nationalist sciences, Indian intellectuals produced biological histories of religious and ethnic identities. They measured physical features and blood composition of Indian Muslims, to determine their religious and racial origin. The question of origin was as useful in developing the sciences as for evaluating claims and self- identities of Indian Muslims and Christians. The racial and religious pasts of communities were fundamental to building the nation and determining which communities would be included in the nation. Since these studies involved scientific measurements of anthropometric features and statistical calculations, the truth of the racial, religious identity came to be the domain of trained experts. This implied that self-identity of people as Hindus or Muslims were construed as only a part of one’s identity. The truth of the entire identity – whether Muslims and ‘low-castes’ had the same racial origin or whether Muslims originated outside the subcontinent – would be henceforth accessible only to trained experts. I argue that race, caste and religion, thus, contributed to the production of nationalist scientific expertise in India.
April 29, 2022
Energy History in Asia: Book Discussion
Victor Seow, Carbon Technocracy: Energy Regimes in Modern East Asia (University of Chicago Press, 2021)
On Barak, Powering Empire: How Coal Made the Middle East and Sparked Global Carbonization (University of California Press, 2020)
February 25, 2022
Hasan Umut (PhD, McGill University), "The Confessional Turn in Early Modern Ottoman Cosmology"
Comments by Travis Zadeh (Yale University, Religious Studies)
January 28, 2022
Nicole Barnes (Duke University), "On Soil and Sustainability, Or, Who Cares about Shit?"
Comments by Gonçalo Santos (University of Coimbra)
October 22, 2021
Yang Li (Princeton University), "Antibiotics, Atomic Bomb, and the Nationalization of Scientific Expertise in Early Socialist China, 1949-1966"
May 21, 2021
Workshop: Donald Opitz (DePaul) & Banu Subramaniam (Univerity of Massachusetts, Amherst)
This week, Don Opitz and Banu Subramaniam have kindly shared with us their proposal for a compendium of primary sources, under contract with Routledge and in an early stage of development. Here's a note from the authors:
The document we are sharing offers an overview of the project with virtually the same detail that the publisher considered prior to approving our contract. During the session, we also hope to pitch questions to the group to engage us in sharing insights on “doing” postcolonial science studies, specifically with respect to the challenges of identifying and accessing relevant sources, “narrating” those sources, and other closely-related methodological considerations. Our framing question is: “How can we retell narratives of colonial and postcolonial science and gender through critical engagement of primary sources? How might we rethink what counts as a source?”
April 23, 2021
Workshop: Minakshi Menon (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
Discussant: Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Cambridge)
“What is Indian Spikenard?”
“What is Indian Spikenard?”, asked the eighteenth-century orientalist, Sir William Jones, in a famous paper, published in Asiatick Researches, Volume II (1790). The question serves here as a point of entry into Jones’s method for creating culturally specific plant descriptions to help locate Indian plants in their Indian milieu, as a first step to identifying commercially valuable plants for the East India Company state.
This paper discusses Jones’s philological method for establishing the jaṭāmāṁsī of the Sanskrit verse lexicon, the Amarakośa, and materia medica texts, as the “Spikenard of the Ancients”. Philology, for Jones, was of a piece with language study and ethnology, and undergirded by observational practices based on trained seeing, marking a continuity between his philological and botanical knowledge-making. The paper follows Jones through his textual and “ethnographic” explorations, as he creates both a Linnaean plant-object – Valeriana jatamansi Jones – and a mode of plant description that encoded the “native” experience associated with a much-desired therapeutic commodity. The result was a botanical identification that forced the jaṭāmāṁsī to travel across epistemologies and manifest itself as an object of colonial natural history. In the words of the famous medic and botanist, William Roxburgh, whose research on the spikenard is also discussed here, Jones’s method achieved what “mere botany” with its focus on the technical arrangement of plants, could not do.
March 19, 2021
Elise Burton, Genetic Crossroads: The Middle East and the Science of Human Heredity (Stanford University Press, 2021)
Elena Aronova, Scientific History: Experiments in History and Politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the End of the Cold War (University of Chicago Press, 2021)
Mary Augusta Brazelton
Mary Brazelton is Associate Professor in Global Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests lie broadly in historical intersections of clinical medicine, the life sciences and public health, in China and around the world.
Eric Moses Gurevitch
Eric Moses Gurevitch is a National Endowment for the Humanities postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University. He received a PhD in 2022 from the University of Chicago, jointly in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. His research focuses on precolonial South Asia and aims to tell a more-global history of science in which unexpected voices, practices and events come to stand alongside more standard narratives.
Charu Singh is a Lecturer at the department of History at Stanford University. She is a historian of modern South Asia and her research focuses on science in translation for vernacular publics. She is especially interested in transformations in colonial scientific subjectivity, and the powers of the modern sciences and their practitioners in colonial and postcolonial societies.
Duygu Yıldırım is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee. She is a historian of science and medicine specialized in the early modern Mediterranean and in the Ottoman Empire. Broadly, her work focuses on cross-cultural interactions, translation, materiality, embodiment, critical historiography, and the relationship between knowledge-making and faith.