Workshop: „Production and popularization of knowledge in the Russian-East Asian Context“

Erlangen, Germany
8 – 9th Jul 2016
Deadline: 15th Feb 2016

Organized by
Prof. Dr. Marc Matten and Prof. Dr. Julia Obertreis (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg)
In cooperation with
Prof. Dr. Andreas Renner (LMU Munich) und Dr. Frank Grüner (University of Heidelberg)

The workshop addresses questions of history of knowledge and the history of science by taking an (inter-) imperial and transnational history perspective, inviting papers from the disciplines of (East European) History, Japanese and Chinese Studies. The production, transfer and popularization of knowledge in local, national and imperial contexts are the central topic of this workshop, focusing on the deep transformations knowledge and science experienced in Japan, China and Russia/the USSR since the 19th century. These transformations have been re-evaluated for some time now because the national or imperial history of this knowledge is no longer deemed sufficient (see Elshakry 2010).

Two central topics will frame the workshop: 1) knowledge production, especially with regard to the integration of individual researchers into existing and to be constituted networks; 2) reception, dissemination and popularization of knowledge focusing on the attribution of trueness, i.e. the creation of authenticity.

Ad 1) Following up with the results of recent research on biographies of scientists and experts in imperial and national contexts (Bretelle-Establet 2009, Buchen/Rolf 2015) biographies and scientific contributions of individuals will be examined as well as processes of collective knowledge production. Networks are of special interest, be they institutionally framed, nationally or transnationally organized (Latour 1979). Biographical observations as well as examinations of networks have to be put into a wider historical context, which includes political constellations influencing knowledge production or privileged living and working conditions of the producers of knowledge. What significance did the authority and the reputation of scientists have for generating and spreading innovations, concepts and ideologies? How was authority ascribed, and to whom? What role did mass media play in these processes? Which formal and informal networks existed, and how and by what means were they sustained? How can the area of conflict between individual and collective generation of knowledge be described (Fleck 1980)?
Scientific institutions (academies, universities, research institutes) that were founded or run across borders are of special interest for this workshop, e.g. the Sun-Yat-sen University in Moscow (founded 1952) or the People’s University founded in the 1950s with Soviet assistance. Were they able to strengthen knowledge transfer across borders, and what kinds of logic did the knowledge production adhere to in alien cultural, political and social contexts?

Ad 2) When examining the reception, dissemination and popularization of knowledge it is not assumed that the recipients are passive, but that there is a model of reciprocal communication in which knowledge itself can change. Especially in the debates on colonial knowledge it has been pointed out that we do not see an automatic transfer of a body of knowledge from the center to the periphery, but a complex process of adaption, rejection and transformation (Ballantyne 2008). Additionally, the attribution of trueness by the recipients and the intermediary instances will be illuminated. At the same time the concept of ‘authenticity’ (Saupe), which is still quite new within the science of history, will be applied to the process of knowledge dissemination. Which knowledge is rendered authentic, by whom and in what way? Can only individual researchers and great scholars produce such knowledge, or do — and if so how — institutions and/or wide parts of the population such as farmers and workers in socialist states participate in this process (see Stehr and Grundmann 2010)? How are social and political processes of knowledge production linked together? How are bodies of knowledge accepted that differ from the norm, like phenomena of ethnoscience (Harding 2008, Eglash 1997, Powell and Frankenstein 1997) and pseudoscience (Rupnow et al. 2008)?

A combination of these two topics is deemed quite promising, as we can find several individual studies of biographies by scientists, but these tend to remain rather hagiographic so far and only marginally touch upon the aspects of generating, authenticating and popularizing knowledge.

This workshop is part of several events on this topic, the first of which took place in May 2015 at LMU with the title “Knowledge production and circulation between Russia and Asia”. A publication of contributions of this year’s workshop is planned. Furthermore, the creation of a network with the topic of “knowledge” focused on the Russian empire respectively the USSR and China, as well as Japan is intended.
Proposals for presentations (20 minutes in length) can contain case studies of recent and future projects as well as theoretical and methodological or synthesizing considerations. The workshop will be held in German and English. Papers should be submitted one month before the workshop, so they can be distributed to all participants.

Abstracts not exceeding one page and including a CV should be submitted until February 15, 2016 to:
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg—Lehrstuhl für Osteuropäische Geschichte
Alena Timonina
Bismarckstr. 12, 91054 Erlangen

Selected bibliography:

Baber, Zaheer (1996): The science of empire. Scientific knowledge, civilization, and colonial rule in India. (SUNY series in science, technology, and society). Albany, NY.
Ballantyne, Tony (2008): Colonial Knowledge, in: Stockwell, Sarah (ed.), The British Empire. Themes and perspectives. Malden, Mass., pp.177–197.
Bretelle-Establet, Florence (2009): Chinese Biographies of Experts in Medicine: What Uses Can We Make of Them?, in: East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 421-451.
Buchen, Tim / Rolf, Malte (eds.): Eliten im Vielvölkerreich. Imperiale Biographien in Russland und Österreich-Ungarn (1850-1918). Berlin/Boston 2015 (Elitenwandel in der Moderne; 17).
Eglash ,Ron (1997): When Math Worlds Collide: Intention and Invention in Ethnomathematics, in: Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter, 1997), pp. 79-97.
Elshakry, Marwa (2010): When Science Became Western: Historiographical Reflections, in: Isis, Vol. 101, No. 1, pp. 98-109.
Fleck, Ludwik (1980): Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Harding, Sandra (2008): Sciences from Below – Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Latour, Bruno, mit Steve Woolgar (1979): Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.
Powell, Arthur B. und Marilyn Frankenstein (ed.) (1997): Ethnomathematics – challenging Eurocentrism in mathematics education. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Pumfrey, Stephen und Cooter, Roger (1994): Separate Spheres and Public Places: Reflections on the History of Science Popularization and Science in Popular Culture, in: History of Science, 32, pp. 237-67.
Rouse, Joseph (1993): What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?, in: Configurations, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-22.
Rupnow, Dirk; Veronika Lipphardt, Jens Thiel und Christina Wessely (eds.) (2008): Pseudowissenschaft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
Saupe, Achim (2012): Authentizität, in: Frank Bösch/Jürgen Danyel (eds.), Zeitgeschichte. Konzepte und Methoden, Göttingen, pp. 144-165. Simultaneously published under the title “Authentiztät, Version 2.0” in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte (, 30.9.2012.
Schroeder-Gudehus, Brigitte and Cloutier, David (1994): Popularizing Science and Technology During the Cold War: Brussels 1958. In: Robert W. Rydell and Nancy Gwinn (ed.): Fair Representation: World’s Fairs and the Modern World Amsterdam: VU University Press, pp. 157-180.
Stehr, Nico und Grundmann, Reiner (2010): Expertenwissen. Die Kultur und die Macht von Experten, Beratern und Ratgebern. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft.
Zittel, Claus (ed.) (2002): Wissen und soziale Konstruktion. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.



Download this announcement as PDF…