Conference Theme

 Sources, Locality and Global History:

Science, Technology and Medicine in East Asia

The organisers of the 14th ICHSEA encourage the submission of papers and panels devoted to the chosen conference theme “Sources, locality and global history: science, technology and medicine in East Asia”.

As all specialists in our field are only too aware, studies of “the West” still dominate the history of science, technology and medicine. As a consequence, the tools, concepts and assessment criteria that are most familiar to specialists have been shaped mainly or solely on the basis of the European historical experience. Working on a different part of the world, in our case East Asia, therefore entails a tension that we need to live with. On the one hand, we need to construct our analytical tools based on the evidence available to us; this means giving priority to a close reading of our sources. On the other hand, we need to construct a continuing dialogue with our colleagues, be they “occidentalists” or specialists of other cultural areas; this dialogue must aim at making our respective studies commensurable with one another. This dialogue is all the more necessary for those of us who study the globalisation of knowledge in history: the varied representations of this phenomenon need to be studied and compared. This implies taking full account of the situation of the objects we study in time and space —the latter being understood as not only geographical but also social, political and cultural— or in other words, of locality

Our motivation for proposing this theme is the following: today historians of science, technology and medicine increasingly explore the implications of historiographies pertaining to “world history”, “global history” and “connected histories” for their disciplines. At the same time, historians strive to approach history on various scales, and in a polycentric fashion. It is important to take this opportunity to make our voices heard. Although sources written in the scholarly as well as vernacular languages of East Asia have a lot to contribute to these historiographical trend, the historical experience of this part of the world is still insufficiently integrated into debates on issues that are of broad relevance to the writing of history - perhaps because our research results are mainly published in the present languages of East Asia. We therefore need to find means of being proactive and audible in such debates, and this conference is a major opportunity to make that happen.

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