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Lecture Series 2011

Science, Technology and Transcultural Studies  

Judith Farquhar - Raji C. Steineck - Vincanne Adams - Shigehisa Kuriyama -     Arthur Kleinman - Christopher Cullen - Annemarie Mol


Science and Technology Studies is a burgeoning area of social theory linking history, philosophy, anthropology and other disciplines. In this lecture series, a number of prominent intellectuals from around the world will take a new look at Science and Technology studies from a transcultural perspective.  

This lecture series is funded by the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows” at Heidelberg University and organised by Laurent Pordié and Wiliam S. Sax for Research Area C.




Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400, Room 212
69115 Heidelberg
Admission free      






Programme Winter Term

Sharing One sky? Some Reflections on Interculturality in Knowledge of the Heavens, and Knowledge about Numbers


by Prof. Christopher Cullen (University of Cambridge)

Wednesday, October 12, 6-8 pm


My recent experience as a researcher in the fields of ancient Chinese astronomy and mathematics has led me to reflect on the extent that it is possible to carry out such research without importing alien assumptions from one's own cultural background.  For instance, does ‘real mathematics’ have to involve the notion of proof as a central concern? Should ‘real astronomy’ centre on a spatial model of the cosmos? Such concerns necessarily link to problems about what happens when different cultures encounter one another’s thought and practice in these areas.  I shall therefore illustrate my talk with a few historical examples.  


Professor Cullen originally trained as an engineer, and holds an MA from Oxford in Engineering Science. He has a PhD in Classical Chinese from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  He is Honorary Professor of the History of East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine in the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of Darwin College.
He was appointed Director of the NRI after spending more than a decade as Senior Lecturer in the History of Chinese Science and Medicine in the Department of History at SOAS. He has published widely, mainly in the fields of the history of astronomy, mathematics and medicine in China. He is General Editor of the Science and Civilisation in China series, published by Cambridge University Press, and of the Needham Research Institute Studies Series, published by Routledge Curzon.

Click here to watch the full lecture online.

The Search for Cognitive Justice


by Prof. Shiv Vishvanathan (Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar)

Wednesday, November 9, 6-8 pm


This paper is an attempt to experimentally link knowledge and democracy. The social movements in India especially those that came to the forefront in the 80’s and 90’s realized that a critique of science had to be a part of a critique of democracy. One needed a constitutionalization of knowledge to trigger what Callon has called the democratization of democracy. Out of these efforts emerged the idea of cognitive justice. This links knowledge to livelihood and argues that a plurality of knowledges is necessary for a plurality of livelihoods and that a diversity of epistemologies is necessary part of democratic plurality. The idea of Cognitive justice goes beyond the subaltern idea of voice, resistance, and insists participation is not an adequate theory of democracy. One needs to recognize the protest of the people and their ways of life as embodying theoretical systems which need to engage with the structures of dominant western science. This paper is a story about the unfolding of this concept and its fate in practice.  


Shiv Visvanathan is an anthropologist of science and a Human rights researcher. He taught at the Delhi School of Economics. He was Senior fellow Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi and is currently Professor, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar. He has held visiting professorships at Stanford, Arizona, Smith and London and Maastricht. He is author of Organizing for Science (OUP, Delhi, 1985), A Carnival for Science (OUP, Delhi, 1997) and has co-edited Foulplay: Chronicles of Corruption (Banyan Books, Delhi, 1999). He writes a regular column for FirstPost, CNN-IBN and Asian age. He also contributes to journals like Tehelka, Seminar and Himal. He is currently completing two books, one on the sociology of populist dictatorships and another, exploring energy as metaphor in the Indian imagination.  

What Human Bodies Share. On the Global Collective


by Prof. Annemarie Mol (University of Amsterdam)

Wednesday, November 23, 6-8 pm


Each human body again stops short as its skin. At the same time ‘my body’, this icon of individuality, is not just mine alone. It is variously collective. How to frame our physical collectivity, how to think about it? There are various modes and modalities for doing so. In this talk, I will present a few of these: generalisation (in certain respects ‘we’ are the same – but how to categorise ‘us’ in as far as we are different?); probalisation (where statistics is put to use to accommodate differences between ‘us’); relations (nobody is herself or himself alone because we all depend on each other to survive); sharing (we share air, water and food between us – if unequally). Of this particular list (others could be drafted) so far ‘sharing’ has been under-theorised. Thus, I will begin to unravel it – and invite you to contribute. What, for instance, is it to ‘share food’ – not with six people around a table, but with six billion on a globe?  


Annemarie Mol has a mixed training, with degrees from medical school, philosophy and the social sciences. She currently holds a chair Anthropology of the Body at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research. She has published The Body Multiple. Ontology in Medical Practice (Duke University Press 2002) and The Logic of Care (Routledge 2008) and co-edited various books, most recently Care in Practice. On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms (Transcript Verlag 2010). Among her many articles let us mention: R. Struhkamp, A. Mol & T. Swierstra (2009) Dealing with Independence: Doctoring in Physical Rehabilitation Practice, in: Science, Technology and Human values, 34: 55-76; and M. de Laet & A. Mol (2000) The Zimbabwe Bush Pump. Mechanics of a Fluid Technology, in Social Studies of Science, 225-263. In 2009 Mol received an ERC Advanced Grant for a project called ‘Eating bodies in Western practice and theory’. She is currently working on that project with an international team of scholars all based in Amsterdam.  

Click here to watch the full lecture online.

Programme Summer Term


Culture Recast as Information: Emergent Ethnic Medicines in China

by Prof. Judith Farquhar (University of Chicago)

Wednesday, April 27, 6-8 pm.  


During the last five years state-funded research groups in China have begun to significantly expand public knowledge about the traditional medical systems of the nation’s minority nationalities.  Field investigations and surveys are ongoing in an effort to systematically record and publish the specialized knowledge and practices of all 55 ethnic groups officially recognized in China.  This lecture explores some particular relationships between modern information systems and the knowledge/practices of healing to be found on the ground in ethnic China.  One focus is on the kinds of social and epistemological entities being generated in the encounter between local experts and a state knowledge apparatus; another is on the commensuration of diverse – yet comparable – medical systems.  New formal knowledge can here be seen both as a cultural resource and as a kind of violence, eclipsing less systematic but more historically valued kinds of knowledge.  


Judith Farquhar is Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research has focused on the history and politics of traditional Chinese medicine in socialist China, and on popular cultures of embodiment and health in urban Beijing. She is the author of Knowing Practice: The clinical encounter of Chinese medicine (Cambridge, 1994); Appetites: Food and sex in post-socialist China (Duke, 2002); and co-editor with Margaret Lock of Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the anthropology of material life (Duke, 2007). A third monograph, Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing life in contemporary Beijing is forthcoming in the Summer of 2011.

Click here to watch the full lecture online.



Bioethics and medicine in modern Japan: National developments and transnational interactions

by Prof. Raji C. Steineck (University of Zurich)

Thursday, May 5, 6-8 pm.


The lecture traces the history of modern Japanese bioethics in relation to the history of modern medicine and the public health system. It will demonstrate that, in spite of the seminal role of international transactions in its development, Japanese bioethics is not a mere import or adaptation of American mainstream bioethics. Neither is ist the expresssion of a distinct Japanese morality, as is often assumed. it is best grasped as a conflicted field of discourse characterized by creative negotiations of shifting power relations, public expectations and academic / intellectual traditions that has brought forth original solutions to some pressing problems in bioethics.


Raji C. Steineck is professor of japanology and director of the East Asian Studies Institute at University of Zurich, Switzerland. He received an M.A. in japanology and a Dr. phil. in philosophy, both from Bonn University. He has published on Japanese bioethics, medieval Japanese Buddhism and mystical philosophy and is currently engaged in the rhetorical analysis of doctrinal and theoretical texts.

Click here to watch the full lecture online.



Evidence of the Tibetan Body: Making the Subtle Winds Visible in an Evidence Economy

by Prof. Vincanne Adams (University of California, San Francisco)

Wednesday, May 18, 6-8 pm.  


In traditional Tibetan medicine, there is a longstanding debate on the existence and meaning of the “three channels” that course the body and regulate health through vital energies tied to wind, bile, and phlegm or desire, anger, ignorance. The debate over their existence, as early as the 15th century, concerned whether or not the three channels exist if they cannot be seen in the physical body.  Efforts to make the channels “visible” are, in this paper, traced from their early origins in Tibet to contemporary American neuroscience research sites.  These efforts, although different for different times and places, can be understood as uniformly invested in both making the channels “real” and using their empirical presence to consolidate political, social and economic power in the places where their “presence” is debated.  Along the way, the body is made to reveal its truths in different evidentiary languages.  As the “subtle winds” are transformed into “attentional deficit models” they become tied to new kinds of technologies and new ways of financing the production of truth.


Vincanne Adams is Professor, Director and Vice-Chair of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.  Her main research has focused on the transnational engagements of Asian medical systems and health care in Nepal, Tibet, and China.  Her books include Tigers of the Snow and Other Virtual Sherpas (Princeton), Doctors for Democracy (Cambridge), Sex and Development (with Stacy L. Pigg) (Duke) and Medicine Between Science and Religion (with Mona Schrempf and Sienna R. Craig) (Berghahn). 

Click here to watch the full lecture online.   



The History of a Local Cure as the History of the World

by Prof. Shigehisa Kuriyama (Harvard University)

Wednesday, June 15, 6-8 pm.    


In this presentation Shigehisa Kuriyama spotlights the little-known entwinement of China, Japan, Europe, and America in the early modern history of a panacea.


Shigehisa Kuriyama is Reischauer Institute Professor Cultural History at Harvard University, and author of The expressiveness of the body, and the divergence of Greek and Chinese medicine (ZONE BOOKS). His primary area of research is the comparative history of medicine and the body. 

Click here to watch the full lecture online. 




Applying a Critical Sociology of Knowledge to Global Health and Transcultural Mental Health

by Prof. Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University)

Wednesday, June 22, 6-8 pm.    

Abstract pending


Arthur Kleinman, a leader of medical anthropology and global health, is the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Medical Anthropology and Professor of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine and the Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center. Kleinman, who is both a physician and anthropologist, chaired the Department of Anthropology from 2004-2007 and from 1991-2000, he chaired the Department of Social Medicine. Kleinman has conducted research in Chinese society since 1969 and has been involved in activities in other Asian societies including Japan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. His first book, Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture (1979), offered the first description of Taiwan’s health care system. In 1986 he published one of the earliest studies of the survivors of China’s Cultural Revolution (Social Origins of Distress and Disease: Neurasthenia, Depression and Pain in Modern China). In more recent years he has led programs on pandemic flu in Asia, SARS in China, and global mental health. His most recent book, What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life Amidst Uncertainty and Danger, examines the effect of social change on moral experience. In September 2011, University of California will publish his co-authored book: Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person. What anthropology and psychiatry tell us about China today. Kleinman has lived in Asia for six and a half years. He is an honorary professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and co-Director of the Harvard-Fudan Medical Anthropology Collaborative Research Center. He has mentored more than 75 Ph.D. students and 200 postdoctoral fellows, including many from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and India. Kleinman is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Click here to watch the full lecture online.



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This lecture series will be accessible world-wide through a series of Internet podcasts - find direct links to online lectures below:

Judith Farquhar (Chicago):

Online Lecture: Culture Recast as Information: Emergent Ethnic Medicines in China

Raji C. Steineck (Zürich):

Online Lecture: Bioethics and medicine in modern Japan: National developments and transnational interactions    

Vincanne Adams (San Francisco):

Online Lecture: Evidence of the Tibetan Body: Making the Subtle Winds Visible in an Evidence Economy

Shigehisa Kuriyama (Harvard):

Online Lecture: The History of a Local Cure as the History of the World  

Arthur Kleinman (Harvard):

Online Lecture: Applying a Critical Sociology of Knowledge to Global Health and Transcultural Mental Health