RESEARCH CLUSTER: Global Histories of Science


Marwa Elshakry, Associate Professor of History
Eugenia Lean, Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures and Director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health and Interim Co-Director, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center

This research cluster engages in an interdisciplinary study of science in society that focuses on understudied places, peoples and periods. Whereas in the past the approach to the history of science in Asia or Africa has so far primarily been traced in reference to some abstract notion of “the West,” the aim of this cluster is to explore a broader, more inclusive and interlinked history of science among regions or geographies.

Global histories 6 Global histories 5 L0030067 Japanese Herbal, 17th century
L0030067 Japanese Herbal, 17th century Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Contains various drawings of European plants with names/text in Old Dutch, Chinese, Japanese & Latin. Illustration 30. "Kruid Boek getrokken uyt Dodoneaus",- "Herbal extracted from Dodoneaus" Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
By crossing traditional borders of periodization, we also hope to explore chronologies or periods of history that have so far been studied separately through a pre-colonial, colonial, or post-colonial or even nationalist lens. We take a broad view of “global histories of science,” from the role of minor geographies in the material, social and intellectual networks of science in the recent to far past to the work of science policies around the globe today. This cluster brings together scholars from Columbia’s Arts and Sciences departments (including history, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society, and Anthropology), the School of International Policy and Affairs (SIPA), the Mailman School of Public Health, and from regional institutes including the Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI), the South Asian Institute and the Middle East Institute.

Among our planned program events are an annual series of lectures; collaborative courses and summer workshops that involve affiliated faculty members and the chance to engage in research and study at one of the Global Centers; and a virtual archive.


May 3, 2018; Megan Vaughan – Metabolic Disorder, Global Health and ‘Noncommunicable’ Disease in Malawi

Workshop Series for Comparative Histories of Medicine and Health in the Global South

Monthly 2-hour meetings from January through December 2018. The first two workshops will be held in Fayerweather Hall, Room 513 on January 26, 2018 and February 23, 2018. Unless noted, all other workshop events will take place in Fayerweather Hall, Room 411.
Additional dates and public talks to be announced shortly.

This workshop brings together a community of Ph.D. students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty members from across Columbia University to share their ongoing work and become familiar with both classic and cutting-edge studies in the social history of medicine, healing, and public health in the South, and to explore the politics of knowledge, debates around bodies, disease and development, growth and expertise that informed global health history.

The series will also focus on the social and cultural histories of medicine in the global South during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on the decolonization and postcolonial state-building periods. Participants will deepen interdisciplinary approaches while thinking about intersecting and linked transregional studies and historical movements. Meetings will offer students and faculty a space for debate and exchange to refine their ideas and writing while developing intellectual tools to address questions of medicine, health, and society in both historical and contemporary contexts. Drawing from history, anthropology, and post-colonial studies, the group will discuss how medicine and health affected society and how society has, in turn, shaped them; how the definition of medicine and health models have been extended and translated through transregional/transnational knowledge exchanges; and how medical theories and practices mobilize and adapt to local circumstances. Members will share knowledge and approaches to sources and archives, and discuss the challenges of researching and writing histories across and between regions, boundaries and interlinked scales.

For more information contact Workshop Organizers Dongxin Zou ( and Sohini Chattopadhyay ( or Faculty Sponsor Kavita Sivaramakrishnan (

July 13-15; Utopias At Sea – Refuge, Resistance, Research



@ 2018 The Center of Science and Society at Columbia University
| Contact Us | Non-Discrimination | |