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D11 Hidden Grammars (project completed)

Hidden Grammars of Transculturality – Migrations of Encyclopaedic Knowledge and Power

Coordination: Barbara Mittler, Madeleine Herren-Oesch


Hidden Grammars of Transculturality – Migrations of Encyclopaedic Knowledge and Power

Encyclopaedia are tools of knowledge administration. While they appear as stable forms reflecting a univalent canon, they may become catalysts of change not just in translation. Idealized self-description calls them "universal and all-encompassing"– but they are knowledge containers constrained by the particular cultural and historical circumstances of their own creation. Probing into questions of readership, production processes and visions of self and other, by studying elements crucial in showing cultural and power asymmetries such as gender, illustrations and biographical writing and their role in travelling and stationary encyclopedia in Europe and Asia, we hope to be able to reconstruct the peculiar «mentalités» which made possible the creation and favourable reception of some encyclopaedia but not others. In analysing encyclopaedia as global source material, and in beginning a dialogue between scholars working on different “national encyclopedia”, helped and supported by the construction of a database which will probe into the histories of a number of key terms related to our research questions, we are hoping in D5/D11 to re-instate encyclopedia not as mere products of book history but as important social agents in the making of historicities between Asia and Europe.

The project takes different approaches to achieve this end:

1. By discussing the characteristics of the genre, we have come to the preliminary conclusion that encyclopaedias are understood as a way of handling and presenting knowledge. The texts discussing this are to be found on this page.

2. By providing bibliographic descriptions of books considered general or specialized encyclopaedias in a given culture.   

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