Global Asia

IIAS, the Scaliger Institute of Leiden University, the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge and the Recherches Epistémologiques et Historiques sur les Sciences Exactes et les Institutions Scientifiques (REHSEIS) in Paris have started a scholarly network of researchers who address topics of the history of science in Asia.

The complex links between science and history in Asian civlisations will be studied on at least two levels. First, one can focus on the ways in which the actors have perceived those links; how on the one hand they have used disciplines that we now categorise as sciences, such as astronomy, for a better understanding of their own past; how on the other hand they have constructed the historicity of these disciplines, thus giving them cultural legitimacy.

Secondly, one can reflect on historiographical issues related to the sciences. How can the sciences be incorporated into historical narratives of Asian civilisations? This question is crucial, given that the dominant view in the nineteenth and twentieth century has been that science is a European invention, and that it has somehow failed to develop endogenously in Asia, where "traditional science" is usually taken as opposed to "Western" or "modern science".

One possible approach to the issue is to look at how various states have contributed to creation, circulation and change in knowledge and practice pertaining to the sciences. Another issue worth exploring is comparing the ways in which the transmission of scientific knowledge and practice across time (tradition) and that across space (from other civilisations of Asia or from Europe) are studied, and how one can progress towards a greater symmetry in the approach of these two types of transmission.

The main academic activity of this project will consist of a series of four workshops under the following titles:

  1. History of chronology (2009)
  2. Constructing genealogies of science (2009)
  3. The role of the state in the historical dynamics of science (2010)
  4. History of logic in Asia (2010)

Funded by: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), The Hague; Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, UK;  Recherches Epistémologiques et Historiques sur les Sciences Exactes et les Institutions Scientifiques (REHSEIS), Paris.


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