Heavens and earth: An empirical approach to knowledge across cultures


17:00 - 19:00 | 15 April 2020 | SG1, Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge.

Abstract

In my talk I wish to make a case for strengthening empirical studies of knowledge available across cultures without anchoring it in any specific theoretical approach. Over the years, I have come across an increasing number of theory-guided studies of knowledge transfer across the Old World or between the Old and New World that produced results contradicting empirically derived knowledge about such processes. As one step to regain a better empirical grounding of our theoretical debates and to overcome dichotomic evaluations of cross-cultural movements of knowledge, we are currently undertaking an interdisciplinary long-durée project for most parts of the Old World about visual representations of the heavens and their relations to materials, narratives, social status, and cultural meaning. I will present this project and some of its themes, objects, and methods. In the second part of my talk I will discuss my earlier work on a number of maps and how those empirical studies changed my outlook on relations between various societies in Europe and in the Islamicate world.

Sonja Brentjes is a historian of science at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, focusing on mathematics, institutions and mapmaking in Islamicate societies until 1700 and cross-cultural encounters in the Mediterranean and western Asia since the eighth century.

Attendance is free but spaces are limited, so please email to reserve your seat.

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Image: Magnus Zeller, The Orator, c. 1920. ©2018. Digital Image Museum Associates/LACMA/Art Resource NY/Scala, Florence.