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Sites of Knowledge: Space, Locality, and Circulation between Asia and Europe


International Summer School, August 4 to 8, 2013

Organisers: Joachim Kurtz and Martin Hofmann


This year's summer school explores the significance of space and locality for the generation and circulation of knowledge. It starts from the premise that space and place mold the social interactions through which knowledge is made and remade. Far from being neutral containers, empty stages, or mere fields of possibility, localities and spatial settings exert a definitive influence on productions and exchanges of knowledge in all its diverse forms: scientific and technical, discursive and embodied. By facilitating certain types of behavior and constraining others, the sites at which knowledge is made and exchanged, and the pathways along which it travels, play an often-neglected role in shaping ideas and practices.

Although recent studies have convincingly shown that space and place matter in the history of knowledge, we do not yet possess a sufficiently nuanced language to describe the spatial dimensions of knowledge-making. One of the aims of this summer school is to test conceptual tools from a variety of relevant disciplines—history, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy, among others—to come to terms with space and locality. In lectures, seminars, and reading groups, we will examine these tools by applying them in the study of specific sites where knowledge is generated, taught, stored, or exchanged.

Focusing on selected places implicated in circulations of knowledge in and between Asia and Europe—ranging from courts, schools, academies, temples, and observatories to print shops, bazaars, roadhouses, ports, and ships—our explorations aim to highlight the concrete conditions under which situated productions of knowledge have taken place since the early modern period. Individual sessions will zoom in on the actors and practices implicated in the gathering and interpretation of data, the generation and propagation of concepts and theories, as well as the modes and media of dissemination and display. All insist that local and global forms of knowledge must not be treated as mutually exclusive, but rather seen as interconnected and reciprocally constitutive results of transcultural co-productions.

To capture the dynamics of these multilayered processes and assess the range and meaning of their implications, we will address the following questions:

  • Is all knowledge local?
  • If so, how can we take account of its diverse contexts (and, perhaps more importantly, what do we mean by that seemingly innocent word 'context'?)
  • Does the situatedness of knowledge preclude claims to 'truth' and 'universality'?
  • How can we best conceptualize the liminal spaces in which knowledge is traded or transmitted?
  • And how useful are distinctions such as metropolis and colony, center and periphery, colonizer and colonized, etc., for our understanding of knowledge in motion?

The programme is designed to provide a platform for graduate students and junior researchers to test and refine their own projects and ideas, learn about each others' work, and engage in critical dialogue with an international group of peers and senior scholars who share an interest in transcultural approaches to the history of knowledge broadly conceived.

For further information, please contact us at summerschool@asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de.

What kind of programme is being prepared...

The summer school programme spans over four days and combines insights in the research of renowned experts in the form of lectures with more interactive elements such as seminars and group workshops. The invited scholars represent a wide range of backgrounds and share an interest in engaging in critical dialogue across regional and disciplinary boundaries.

read more about the programme...

read more about the speakers... 

How to apply

The Summer School 2013 addresses graduate students interested in theories and practices of knowledge production in Asia and Europe working in a wide array of disciplines, ranging from the histories of science and thought, anthropology, sociology, history and philosophy to East, South and Southeast Asian Studies.

Find more information here.

Deadline for applications will be May 31, 2013.