Towards a Global History of Ideas

Towards a Global History of Ideas

Kollegforschergruppe “Religiöse Individualisierung” am Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt und Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt
From - Until
07.07.2016 - 09.07.2016
Martin Mulsow / Benjamin Steiner

In recent years a series of academic disciplines concerned with cultures of knowledge have been "globalizing", i.e. reacting to globalization with a broadening of their agenda. We speak today of a "global history of science", "world antiquarianism", "world philology", "global art history", as well as of a "global intellectual history", the latter inspired, among others, by Christopher Bayly. Less clear, however, is what this broadening should look like if it is to avoid an accumulative character, merely aggregating numerous national traditions, nor is it clear what difficulties arise from this.
The conference will concentrate on three aspects: (1) Experience with the globalisation of the study of cultures of knowledge and intellectual history, problems, institutional ramifications, and funding. This concerns especially the consequences of reaching one’s own language and cultural barriers, e.g. when dealing with China, India, or the Islamic world and a greater dependence on collaboration with colleagues, co-authorship, and joint-papers at conferences. Methodological concerns need also be addressed: How can one avoid sacrificing the high standards set by an intellectual history concentrating on well-defined and narrow contexts? (2) Unique challenges concerning the globalisation of research into pre-modern history, i.e. in dealing with the period before the acute globalisation of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How are the "entanglements" of this early stage of world-wide interdependence to be analysed? Are post-colonial premises of entangled history really effective here? Are there here differences vis-à-vis the methodological approach to modern history? What is the relation of a “history of concepts” (Begriffsgeschichte) to a social history of ideas, and to the integration of images? How does the broadening of the spatial horizon relate to the broadening of the temporal horizon in the early modern period? (3) The reciprocal interactions between the diverse spheres of a globalised history of knowledge. How do the different broadening endeavours in varied fields like philology, art history, history of science, or history of philosophy relate to each other? Does a “global history of knowledge” of a kind emerge here or are these rather specific insights in given fields which shed light on research in others? Would a better understanding of “entanglement” afford us greater insight into agents’ individualising experiences? Does the comparison of similar traditions (e.g. antiquarianism in Europe and China or case descriptions as a pattern of thought in different cultures) lend itself for innovative questions about longue durée influences and relativizations?

The number of participants is limited. To register for participation please contact Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow (


Thursday, 7.7.

Chair: Michael Stausberg (Bergen)

(1) What is Global Intellectual History?

13.00 Martin Mulsow (Erfurt/Gotha): Categories for a Global Intellectual History
14.00 Sebastian Conrad (Berlin): What is „global“ in Global Intellectual History?
15.00-15.30 Coffee Break
15.30 Jürgen Renn (Berlin): The Globalization of Knowledge in History - the Perspective of Historical Epistemology
16.30 Hans Medick (Göttingen): A Global Turn? Microhistory in Extension

18.00 Keynote Lecture:
Jan Assmann (Konstanz): Revelation

Dinner for the Participants

Friday, 8.7.

Chair: Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt)

(2) Global Intellectual History and Global History: Interconnections

9.00 Iris Schröder (Erfurt): Menelik's Map and Boundary Making in Late Nineteenth Century Ethiopia: A Case for a History of Ideas in a Euro-African Setting?
10.00 Benjamin Steiner (Erfurt): The Place of Sub-Saharan Africa in a Global History of Ideas from an Early Modern Perspective
11.00-11.30 Coffee Break
11.30 Dominic Sachsenmaier (Göttingen): Hierarchies of Knowledge and the Perspective of a Global History of Knowledge

12.30 Lunch

Chair: Benjamin Steiner (Erfurt)

(3) The Pre-Modern Era: Transcultural Transmission of Ideas

13.30 Stefan Hanß (Cambridge): Entangled Imagery. Intellectual History and Visual Culture
14.30 Carlo Ginzburg (Pisa): Ethnophilology: Two Case Studies
15.30-16.00 Coffee Break
16.00 Kapil Raj (Paris): Networks of Knowledge, or Spaces of Circulation? Conceptualizing Early-Modern Knowledge-Making and Exchange
17.00 Anna Akasoy (New York): The Classical Heritage of Eurasia: What Constitutes a Heritage?
18.00-19.00 Guided Tour through Erfurt (Reiner Prass)

Dinner for the Participants

Saturday, 9.7.

Chair: Gunnar Folke Schuppert (Berlin)

(4) Images, Objects, Ideas: Dimensions of Global Intellectual History

9.00 Knud Haakonssen (Erfurt/St. Andrews): John Pocock’s “Barbarism and Religion” - a Global Intellectual History?
9.30 Paola Molino (Munich): All you can do and all you can’t do with library catalogues: dangerous tools for globalizing pre-modern local bibliographies
10.30-11.00 Coffee Break
11.00 Gerhard Wolf (Florenz): Images, Objects, Ideas. Considerations on global or transcultural art histories
12.00 Final discussion

End: ca. 13.00

Contact (announcement)

Prof. Dr. Martin Mulsow
Forschungszentrum Gotha der Universität Erfurt
Schloss Friedenstein
99867 Gotha

PD Dr. Benjamin Steiner
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien
Universität Erfurt
Nordhäuser Str. 74
99089 Erfurt