Science Across Regions in Asia

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • 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)

  • February 12, 2021

    Workshop: Noa Nahmias (York University)
    Discussant: Grace Yen Shen (Fordham University) 

    ‘The world of science at your doorstep’: Universal and national visions in Popular Science magazine, 1933 - 1937. 
    This chapter asks how science popularizers in China in the 1930s addressed questions of science as universal and science for national strengthening. It does so by examining the magazine Popular Science (Kexue huabao 科學畫報) from 1933 to 1937, focusing on the magazine’s publishing infrastructure, its material aspects such as formatting and visuals, and its circulation. I posit that Popular Science contained competing narratives on what science meant for China. On the one hand, the publisher and editors produced a transnational imaginary of science, while on the other hand they were committed to creating a local version of modern science.  

  • January 15, 2021

    He Bian, Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2020) 
    Harun Kuçuk, Science without Leisure: Practical Naturalism in Istanbul, 1660-1732 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

  • December 4, 2020

    Syllabus Workshop with Science beyond the West (Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania) 
    We'll begin the session with a quick outline of our plans for the rest of the year, following on from last month's introductory discussion. After some consultation, and regret that it's impossible to discuss all the books mentioned at that session, we as organisers are suggesting that for our January meeting, we discuss chapters from Bian He's Know Your Remedies and Harun Küçük's Science without Leisure, and in March we'll have a celebratory discussion of both Elise Burton's Genetic Crossroads and Elena Aronova's Scientific History. This selection ensures that we can support members' work and cover a range of chronologies and geographies.
    The main focus of Friday's session will be a syllabus workshop, put together with the generous help of the Science beyond the West Working Group, in which our group members have kindly volunteered to share syllabi on histories of science in Asia/non-western spaces (you should soon be able to download the materials for the seminar on the working group's web page under "Meetings"; Nir Shafir's syllabus includes a link to previous final projects, which you can find here:

    We'll first have a discussion about how to approach the task of writing a syllabus. What kinds of considerations are different depending on the context and audience, i.e. undergraduate survey vs graduate seminar? What kinds of factors should be considered in selecting a course title? In the readings, alongside the syllabi we've included two pieces that set out some relevant pedagogical issues, James Delbourgo's "The Knowing World" and Yulia Frumer's "What is and isn't in a Name": how are these authors' experiences useful for us? Then, we'll move to breakout groups for conversations about the syllabi to be workshopped. Please bear in mind that these syllabi represent works in progress, and do not circulate them beyond the group. 

  • November 13, 2020

    Hello and Welcome Back! 
    Introductions and recap. 
    Anderson, Warwick. "Decolonizing Histories in Theory and Practice: An Introduction." History and Theory 59, no. 3 (2020): 369-75.

  • June 26, 2020

    Indigenous Knowledge: Asian Histories of a Global Concept
    Guest: Yu-yueh Tsai (Academica Sinica, Taiwan)
    In this final session on the relevance of the historiographic turn towards decolonization for science studies in Asia, we will focus on ‘indigenous knowledge’ and its Asian histories. In the history of science and STS, indigenous knowledge is a powerful concept to counter the hegemonic methods and practices of imperial and colonial sciences. Analyses of indigenous knowledge based on unconventional archives and interdisciplinary methods are well regarded as key decolonial moves in science studies. And yet, the category itself has much greater reach across the humanities and social sciences. It is used with slightly different connotations across a range of disciplines, institutions, movements, and geographies.
    This session is dedicated to understanding what the concept of indigenous knowledge means for researching, writing and teaching histories of science/knowledge in Asia. What is ‘indigenous knowledge’ in the context of Asia? If by indigenous knowledge we mean the knowledge of ‘indigenous people’, we will explore which groups are identified as or self-identify as indigenous, and which forms of knowledge count as indigenous. Furthermore, given the fraught politics of ethnic nationalisms in Asia, we will also examine who speaks for indigenous knowledge and lays claim to it towards particular political ends – at times as ‘a euphemism for indigenism’ (Raina 2019).
    Precolonial and colonial empires and modern nation-states in Asia have governed dynamic multiethnic communities with complex and shared ecologies and histories of language, religious beliefs, migration, material culture and social practices. In fact the sciences have played a constitutive role, defining heterogenous populations into modern collectives organised by ethnic identity and enumerated as majorities and minorities. As indigenous peoples across Asia faced the powers of premodern and modern state structures and global capitalism, various communities such as the Amazigh peoples of North Africa, the adivasis of South Asia and the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan were identified as indigenous or ethnic minorities, often with parallel experiences of disempowerment and dispossession.
    In order to appreciate the heterogeneous histories of these groups and to understand indigenous knowledge within Asian histories, our discussion will focus on three case studies: the history of ethnicity and ongoing genetics research based on essentialized ethnic identities in Taiwan; the emergence of the interdisciplinary field of “Adivasi Studies” shaped by scholars and activists in India in the past decade; and the twentieth-century intellectual history of indigenous knowledge and the concept’s integration in technocratic discourses of sustainable development.
    Over the course of our sessions, our working group has tried to learn from the insights offered by scholars of Critical Indigenous Studies. In this closing session, our aim is to deepen this engagement while attending to the Asian specificity of the politics of indigenous pasts. (We have included some of the relevant readings from previous sessions here.) Does the concept and claim to indigenous knowledge take on unique valence in settler colonial society? When, why and in which contexts do we talk about indigenous knowledge in opposition to western science? How has the historical relationship of indigenous groups to land differed across multiple contexts, and how does this diversity inflect the politics of global indigeneity?
    As you read, you may want to note down the definitions/valences of indigenous knowledge across these contexts, especially in relation to other kinds of knowledge. Please draw a representation of the relationship between Indigenous Knowledge and its Other(s) – settler knowledge, colonial knowledge, Western science, etc., in a context of your choice. We will start the session by sharing some of these drawings.
    Case Studies
    Tsai, Yu-yueh. “Geneticizing Ethnicity: A Study on the “Taiwan Bio-Bank”.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 4, no. 3 (2010): 433-55.
    Dasgupta, Sangeeta. “Adivasi Studies: From a Historian's Perspective.” History Compass 16, no. 10 (2018): n/a.
    Raina, Dhruv. “The Vocation of Indigenous Knowledge and Sciences as Metaconcept.” In Engaging Transculturality: Concepts, Key Terms, Case Studies. Edited by Laila Abu-Er-Rub, Christiane Brosius, Sebastian Meurer, Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, Susan Richter. (London: Routledge, 2019)
    Comparative Case Study
    Sturgeon, Janet C. “Pathways of “Indigenous Knowledge” in Yunnan, China.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 32, no. 1 (2007): 129-53.
    Readings of Interest from Previous Sessions
    Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang. "Decolonization is not a metaphor." Decolonization: Indigeneity, education & society 1, no. 1 (2012). (Nov. 15, Asia and Decolonization as Method)
    Harding, Sandra, Other Cultures' Sciences, in Harding ed. The postcolonial science and technology studies reader (Duke University Press, 2011): 151-158. (Dec. 13, Decolonial Methods in Precolonial History of Science)
    Primary Sources
    Kari-Oca Declaration and Indigenous Peoples’ Earth Charter, 1992.
    Annual Meeting of the Federal Council, World Amazigh Congress, 2010. Selections.

Group Conveners

  • mbrazelt's picture

    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.


  • EMGurevitch's picture

    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's picture

    Charu Singh

    Charu Singh is an Assistant professor in Non-Western History of the Sciences at the University of Cambridge. She is interested in transformations in colonial scientific subjectivity and the powers of the premodern and modern sciences and their practitioners in colonial and postcolonial societies. 


  • Duygu's picture

    Duygu Yildirim

    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.


306 Members