Past Event

Dagmar Schäfer – Dynastic Knowledge and the Knowledge of Dynasties: Politics and the History of Scientific Change in China

April 3, 2017
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
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Bettman Lecture Hall (Room 612), Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University, New York

Dagmar Schäfer, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

From philology to agriculture and mining, the history of changing technologies and sciences in China is told alongside political events. Clearly intellectual, material culture trends, social and political rule are intricately linked. but in this lecture I want to discuss if and in which cases socio-political rupture and changes in ways of knowing (the ways in which people know, how they study and produce knowledge) were actually correlated and in which way historiography (past and present) contributes to such views. I exemplify on the Yuan-Ming (14 c) and Ming-Qing (17 c) transitions and the field of sericulture: the worm, the fibre and the fabric to illustrate when where and how representation and reasoning varied.

Dagmar Schäfer is the Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, where she is also the Director of Department 3, “Artefacts, Action, and Knowledge.” Since August 2015, she has also been the Professor of the History of Technology at the Technical University, Berlin. Her main interest is the history of technology in China, focusing on the paradigms configuring the discourse on technological development, past and present. She has published widely on the Premodern history of China (Song-Ming) on several topics encompassing themes of materiality, technology, knowledge systems and the changing role of artefacts. Her monograph The Crafting of the 10,000 Things (University of Chicago Press, 2011) won the History of Science Society: Pfizer Award in 2012 and the Association for Asian Studies: Joseph Levenson Prize (Pre-1900) in 2013. Her current research focus is the historical dynamics of concept formation, situations, and experiences of action through which actors have explored, handled and explained their physical, social, and individual worlds. Currently, she preparing her forthcoming book Threads of Global Desire: Silk in the Premodern World (Oxford UP) and working on an article titled, “Thinking in many tongues: plurlingualism and the history of science in China,“ to be published in the September 2017 issue of Isis (University of Chicago Press).

Inaugurated in 2004, the Bettman Lectures are an annual program of lectures in art history sponsored by Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archaeology. Endowed with a bequest from Linda Bettman, a former graduate student of the department, the lectures are named in her honor.