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Workshop: Sources for a Global History of Science
November 30, 2013
This workshop is the second in a series that continues an important set of debates and reflexions on the interaction between histories of the sciences and models of global history. These debates ask fundamental questions about what science has meant on the global stage and how sciences have come to take form through global confrontations, connections and politics. A previous CRASSH workshop in May 2009, entitled Are we ready to recast the history of science?, made a significant contribution to this historiographical conversation and generated a special Focus issue in Isis (2010).
The keynote speakers at the second workshop will be Dr. Lauren Minsky (NYU, Abu Dhabi) and Dr. David Lambert (Warwick). An aim of these workshops is to link UK-based scholars with those working elsewhere in the world on questions of the sciences’ past. The network is also connected with the Centres of South Asian Studies and African Studies and the Faculty of History and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in the University of Cambridge.
The need for a global history of science emerged from a series of critiques about the map of the history of science. It was felt that European materials and languages had dominated the telling of science’s past. There was the criticism that if the wider world emerged in narrations of the history of science it did so in the name of European expansion and empire. Attention was paid to how scholars in other parts of the world had generated nationalist accounts of their intellectual history in responding to European narrations. And there was the theoretical problem that European approaches to the history of science, privileging practice theory or actor-network theory, were being expanded elsewhere. The turn to the global has been refreshing and politically important but has generated a series of counter-questions. Does the global flatten space in histories of science? Does the global present a view from nowhere without taking locality seriously? How can radically different sorts of knowledge traditions be brought together? How should historians of science deal with fault-lines between regions, or oceans and lands, or cities and hinterlands?
This workshop will allow participants to work through these critiques and help refine the conceptual vocabulary of future histories of science. It also gives the chance to reflect on what global histories of science are for. This will take up the comments made by Breckenridge and Habib at the first meeting, about the political and ethical misuses of histories of science (even those with global or post-colonial inflections) in India and in South Africa. Papers will be presented by post-graduate students and by post-doctoral scholars. Lambert will discuss his new book from Chicago University Press. We hope that students and scholars engaging with histories of science from different vantage points and at different stages will attend.