SCALES OF KNOWLEDGE: ZOOMING IN AND ZOOMING OUT
The 7th Annual Conference of the
Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context"
October 7th - 9th, 2015
Scales are fundamental for all cultural and historical research, including transcultural studies. The map of a whole country does not show the same places as the map of single city; a camera can zoom in seconds from a vast landscape to the image of a single bird perched on a tree-branch; an assemblage of large numbers of people into a single institution has radically different implications than the actions of scattered individuals; accumulations of big data lead to questions that would be impossible to answer with smaller samples; and conceptual lenses like “culture,” “stratosphere,” or “hospital” enable insights that have little in common with those emerging from studies focusing on the trajectories of a lone person, a single atom, or a particular medical practice. Such examples reveal how, on the one hand, different research objects require different scales of investigation, and on the other, how the various scales of human activity produce disparate effects.
Whether conceived as an ontological assumption about the “real” dimensions of social and natural phenomena, a methodological means to observe different aspects of the same object, or a focus used by human actors to organize their experience of the world, scales have been widely discussed in a wide array of disciplines. But despite the centrality of the topic, and the extensive debates that have taken place around it in recent decades, transcultural studies have not paid much attention to the multitude of issues arising from notion of “scale”. Many key oppositions in the vocabulary of transculturality – such as “global” and “local,” “micro” and “macro,” “national” and “transnational,” and so on – work with unexamined dualistic assumptions and fail to recognize the (potentially infinite) number of scales that are employed by human subjects in their various activities, or that might be used for research.
To address this lacuna, the panels of the conference will address such questions as: How do we use scales in our own work? What kinds of scale are implicitly exported from culture to culture along with scientific techniques, institutional forms, or intellectual paradigms? Are there “mis-matches” between such imported scales and local scales associated with similar techniques, forms, and paradigms? In other words, what contribution can an explicit focus on “scale” make to transcultural studies? And what contribution can transcultural studies make to notions of “scale”?
We welcome case studies, focusing on Asia, Europe, or other world regions from all disciplines in the humanities and social sciences broadly conceived.
Scalar politics and politics of scale
Transformations of temporal and spatial scales
Scalar practices of identification and placemaking
Scales of observation
Performativity and scales