Discussion of processes that cross political, geographical, or cultural boundaries has increased among historians of science in the past years. Following this “global turn” the problematic of intercultural interaction has been mobilized to make sense of the construction of different forms of knowledge — geographical, natural historical, linguistic, ethnic to name but a few. According to this conception, knowledge thus circulates within circumscribed spaces that are always the result of encounters and negotiations. The rising deployment of the problematic in the past decade notwithstanding, many scholars continue to conceive of the term as a synonym for diffusion, transfer, transmission, mobility, or simply fluidity, and are perplexed by its implied concession of agency to all participants in contexts of colonial or other asymmetrical power relations between social or ethnic groups.
By bringing together scholars who have used the problematic of circulation in their work as well as those who have reservations as to its relevance, we would like in this symposium to develop the problematic through a dialogue between these different positions in order to not only to establish a better understanding of the problematic and methodological nature of the concept of circulation, but above all of the implied conception of spaces of circulation within which knowledges, know-hows, practices and norms are constructed and shared, and beyond which they need again to be negotiated in order to move. Participants are invited to explore the possibilities and the methodological and theoretical challenges inherent in this approach, to probe its limits, and to engage in conversation with skeptics. Albeit empires and colonial settings themselves constitute a multiplicity of deeply diverse historical entities, the symposium welcomes contributions which focus on the production of knowledge in this kind of political formation, both European and non-European, from circa 1500 to 1945.
As an indication, the following non-limitative list of themes might help set the scope of the symposium:
- circulation of knowledge, asymmetries of power, questions of hegemony;
- scientific institutions and empires;
- material and political aspects of the circulation of objects;
- circulation of knowledge across empires, in extra-imperial spaces or through by-passing imperial frontiers;
- the role of go-betweens, brokers, translators;
- markets and circulation;
- the co-production of the global and the locality.
If you are interested in participating in the symposium, please send a working title and abstract (200-500 words) by no later than December 14th, 2017.