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Accueil > Archives > Séminaires des années précédentes > Séminaire 2022 - 2023 : Archives > Seminar of the Centre for the History of Philosophy and Science seen from Asia, Africa, and so on (CHPSAA) 2022-2023


Seminar of the Centre for the History of Philosophy and Science seen from Asia, Africa, and so on (CHPSAA) 2022-2023

This seminar is one of the activities of the Centre for the History of Philosophy and Science seen from Asia, Africa, and so on.

Archives : 2021-2022

PROGRAM 2022-2023

The seminar will be held —except when specified otherwise— on Fridays in Room Rothko, 412B, at Université Paris Cité, Building Condorcet, 4, rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris

Dates –provisional Tu ! 11/22, 3pm-6pm 12/9 2023/01/13 02/17 03/17 04/7 05/26 06/16

 !! Tuesday !! November 22, 2pm - 5pm, Room Gris, 734A 

: : Historiography of Astronomy
Organisation : Karine Chemla

  • Giorgio Matteoli (University of Torino) 
    Historia ancilla astronomiae Joseph-Nicolas Delisle’s (1688-1768) European Network and the First General History of Astronomy
    During the 18th century, the historiography of the sciences showed a tremendous increase in output, overall quality and scope in treating the past of each discipline and (for the first time) of science in general from a systematic point of view. Since history of science was not yet conceived as a clearly defined discipline in itself, nor was it attached to any university curriculum whatsoever, the styles and aims of historiographical practices were still mostly linked in a close way to those of current scientific projects, and sometimes to the institutions that fostered them. The Parisian Royal Academy of Sciences stood out as the most active among them, due to its hegemonic stance at the time to be sure, but also to the large-scale collaborative networks that some of its members were able to put in place. This presentation will explore the origin and fortune of the project of composing a general history of astronomy conceived by one of its most active members, the astronomer and geographer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle. As recent archival research has shown, this project was at first sketched in the wake of Giovanni Domenico Cassini’s influence, and later put on a new footing and animated by Delisle (who was one Cassini’s last assistants). Delisle soon started involving in more or less direct way many scholars from all over Europe, who helped gathering the bibliographical information needed and, sometimes, even to carry out some of its parts, as it will be shown by exploring the case of the intense correspondence he maintained with German scholars in Wittenberg, namely Johann Friedrich Weidler and Georg Matthias Böse. Even though Delisle’s general history of astronomy was left unaccomplished when he died in 1768, it was later to be taken up by Delisle’s pupil, Jérôme Lalande, and eventually completed by the pupil of the latter, Jean-Baptiste Joseph Delambre. 
  • Dimitri Bayuk (SPHere) 
    Astronomy and Diplomacy on the Sino-Russian Border and around : in 3 Episodes with a Prologue
    The studies of Chinese astronomy in Russia have a long and complex history, and I will focus only on three episodes of particular interest. In the prologue, I describe how the attention to the movements of celestial bodies was motivated by orders of the authorities and the needs of navigation. 
    The first astronomical courses started being taught at the Navigational School, founded in Moscow in 1701. As its name suggests, the program of the school included orientation at sea and charting, but it also had a purely terrestrial context, linked to the needs of the border demarcation where the emerging Russian Empire had to face the Chinese Qing Empire. A series of armed conflicts on the Amur River in the 17th century led to the signing of the Nerchinsk Treaty between Russia, Muscovy Tsardom at the time, and China in 1689. A subsidiary result of the summit also was the intention to establish relationships with astronomers from Catholic missions in Beijing.
    The second episode relates to the first half of the 19th century, the heyday of the Russian Orthodox mission in Beijing. For a long time, the members of the mission paid virtually no attention to the natural sciences as such or their influence on Chinese culture. The situation began to change only under Iakinf Bichurin, and the interest climaxed when Konstantin Skachkov began working in Beijing. Both of them turned their attention not so much to the astronomical observations made in China by foreign astronomers, but to the ability of the Chinese themselves to make such observations. Bichurin and Skachkov discovered a whole stratum of ancient astronomical and cosmological beliefs that had developed long before the first Europeans arrived in China. Still, they followed opposite approaches to the ancient legacy. Nevertheless, their interest undoubtedly heralded both the advent of the era of Russian Orientalism and the turn of Russian public consciousness toward the philosophy of cosmology. Some results of their works contributed to efforts of Russian diplomacy in negotiating with China and territorial acquisitions in the late19th century. 
    The third episode centers on a brief renaissance of Sino-Russian relations after the end of WWII. At this time, quite a few Chinese students manage to come to study in cities of the Soviet Union, and scientists of the USSR Academy of Sciences began closely to cooperate with their colleagues from the PRC. This provides an opportunity to become acquainted with sources that could not be accessed before due to both their rarity and linguistic complexity. This episode was short-lived : the Soviet-Chinese friendship was replaced by disagreements and the need to return to the issues of cross-border demarcation. The disagreements led again to armed clashes on the Amur River and, paradoxically, to a new wave of scholarly attention to the history of Chinese astronomy.

Friday December 9, 3pm - 6pm, Room Rothko, 412B

: : Hommage to Rosane Rocher

Organized by M. Menon, A. Keller and K. Chemla

  • 3pm - 3:30pm
    Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHere)
    An intellectual biography of Rosane Rocher
    Rosane Rocher’s work is especially remembered for her biographies of early indologists and of some of the pandits they employed. Reflecting on her intellectual itinerary, I would like to link these works with others she has carried out through out her career, from Belgium to the University of Pennsylvania, drawing thus a portrait of a woman indologist in academia in the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.
  • 3:30pm - 4pm 
    Minakshi Menon (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
    Rosane Rocher and Histories of Science in South Asia
    Historians of science have responded to the challenge of writing histories of science in the “non-west” by using the concept of the “broker” in order to analyse cross-cultural knowledge flows. The broker or go-between has been used as a capacious category to accommodate translators, spies, healers, and interestingly, pandits in the service of the English East India Company. Such histories, though, rely almost entirely on European-language sources. Rosane Rocher’s biographies of pandits, which draw on their own works in Sanskrit, act as a corrective, allowing us to recover histories of actors embedded in complex social relationships, responding to rapid changes in their social and material conditions. The new turn to writing decolonial histories of science in South Asia, I argue, would be difficult in the absence of Rocher’s work.
  • 4pm - 4:30pm
    Joshuah Ehrlich (University of Macau)
    The Career of Mootiah Teroovercadoo, an Eighteenth-Century Mudaliar Scholar in British Employ
    This paper takes its inspiration from Rosane Rocher’s landmark study of Radhakanta Tarkavagisa. In similar fashion, it examines the career of Mootiah Teroovercadoo (Muttiah Thiruverkadu), another Indian scholar who collaborated with the Company. It compares the experiences of the two men, drawing a contrast between patterns of scholarly patronage in the south and in the north. It finds that in the growing Madras Presidency, as early as the 1790s, the East India Company sought to recruit scholar-collaborators from non-elite social groups. Mootiah, a Mudaliar and Shaivite, was different in many ways from the venerable pandit Radhakanta. But he too encountered both opportunities and dangers in his novel relationship with the Company.
  • 4:30pm - 4:45pm Break
  • 4:45pm - 5:15pm
    Richard Lariviere (Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin and President Emeritus, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)
    Actors in the Colonial Enterprise
    The term “colonialism” has taken on such power that it has now slipped into the category of broad-brush terms such as fascism or socialism : terms that are both short-hand for specific phenomena and terms of abuse in the political arena. In the latter case, the terms have become nearly meaningless. Rosane Rocher’s work is an important grounding for scholars because it shows us how individual acts and careers shaped the colonialism of the 18th and 19th century. We come to know through her work human specifics of the colonial enterprise. Such specific accounts of the work of scholars of this period can lead to important introspection for our own work as scholars.
  • 5:15pm - 6pm
    General Discussion

Friday January 13, 2023, 2pm - 5pm, Room Rothko, 412B

: : Towards a critical reflection on the uses of the notion of civilization in the history of philosophy and the history of science

0rganisation : K. Chemla (CNRS, SPHere)

Publications on the history of ancient sciences regularly use the fuzzy notion of “civilization”, which furthermore bring with it important connotations. What are the implicit assumptions that underlie the use of this notion ? How can we determine the features that authors attribute to such entities and the causalities authors associate with them ? What scientific problems do these uses raise ? We will begin a reflection that should unfold along several years with the presentations of two historians who have already devoted some thoughts to these issues. Their presentations will be given in French, with slides in English.

  • Tristan Mauffrey (MCF en littérature comparée à l’Université Sorbonne Nouvelle / CERC)
    Pensée civilisationnelle et comparatisme asymétrique : autour de « l’âge axial » et de ses enjeux épistémologiques
    Pour rendre comparables entre elles les cultures anciennes à l’échelle globale, bien des discours savants européocentrés ont, depuis le XVIIIe siècle, projeté sur le passé du reste du monde la catégorie d’Antiquité, en associant implicitement à ce terme un ensemble de représentations des cultures grecque et romaine dont l’Europe revendiquait l’héritage. Créer des effets de synchronisme entre l’aire méditerranéenne et, par exemple, le monde perse, indien ou chinois, permettait de penser une histoire de l’humanité élargie, mais aussi, paradoxalement, de perpétuer un schéma civilisationnel selon lequel les manifestations du génie humain (sous la forme de découvertes intellectuelles, d’innovations technologiques, ou encore de textes canoniques) seraient présentes en même temps dans certaines parties du monde plus que dans d’autres. Cela revenait donc à créer des comparaisons asymétriques entre cultures anciennes essentialisées, en fonction de leur mode d’inscription dans une supposée temporalité commune. La théorie de « l’âge axial » (Achsenzeit) formulée par Karl Jaspers en 1949 s’inscrit pleinement dans cette pensée civilisationnelle, en postulant la concomitance de l’apparition de nouveaux modes de pensée rationnels et spirituels dans différentes « grandes civilisations » entre le VIIIe et le IIe siècle av. J.-C. Or cette théorie influente sous-tend encore parfois, à travers de multiples reformulations critiques, de fécondes entreprises comparatistes. On en discutera ici quelques enjeux épistémologiques, notamment dans le champ des études sino-helléniques, en montrant qu’ils font écho à des débats politiques et idéologiques très actuels.
  • Florence Dupont (Professeur émérite, Université Paris Cité)
    Cultural transfers, mutations and ethnogenesis : putting into question the notion of civilization in Antiquity
    Roman civilization, Greek civilization are blurred categories that we use because they have a history in European scholarly traditions. However, they become toxic once they serve to define the original, cultural core of a political or social community. What the historian encounters are peoples or city-states which, according to circumstances, declare their attachment to a prestigious culture (the Greek literary tradition from the 4th century BC) or a hegemonic one (Rome’s position in Italy as of the 3rd century BC), particularly by cultural transfers ; or by contrast affirm their difference, or their newly constructed identity, what we term an ethnogenesis. These ethnogeneses are not immanent or purposive evolutions, but rather voluntary mutations. Three examples demonstrate this : Paestum, Messina, and Rome.

Friday February 17, 2pm - 4pm, Room Rothko, 412B

: : Categories with which historians and philosophers of science work : Geographies

Organisation : E. Sammarchi

  • 2pm - 3:15pm Thomas Haddad (University of São Paulo)
    Seen from Latin America : The West, the Rest, or Somewhere Else
    For more than two centuries (and counting), Latin American intellectuals have been obsessing with one question : what is the defining element of the region’s identity, the key that will unlock the door to understanding our entire past, present, and future ? Are we tropicalized Europeans, hybrids, originals, post-colonials, neo-colonials, decolonials, Global Southerners, anti-moderns, hyper-moderns… ? What unifies such disparate standpoints is a permanent uneasiness with the “West” as idea or reality (ever-present for Latin Americans in the powerful metonym that is the USA) : are we Western enough ? Do we want to be ? Is there a Latin American “we,” anyway ? As I argue in this talk, the history of science in Latin America has always been part and parcel of this troubled quest for an identity borne out of a geography — here understood both as an analytical category (as in what is specifically Latin American about Latin American science) and a lived experience (as in what it means to do history of science from Latin America). To make this argument, I will revisit some influential claims that have been made about the history of science in the region, such as that it was a natural, unproblematic extension of European science ; a violent imposition that erased Indigenous knowledge systems ; a history of creative reception and adaptation ; a paradigmatic example of colonial and imperial science ; a series of false starts and unfulfilled promises ; a chapter in the global history of science. My intention is to demonstrate that these views ultimately encode entire historiographical, political, and, dare I say, existential attitudes toward the lingering question of Latin America’s place — or lack thereof — in the metageography of the West and the Rest.
  • 3:15pm - 3:30pm Coffeebreak
  • 3:30pm - 4:45pm Eleonora Sammarchi (ETH-Zürich and SPHere)
    Mediterranean world(s) as a category of historical analysis. Focus on medieval and early modern mathematics
    Within the study of the history of science and philosophy, geographies correspond to a category of analysis that, just like periodizations and disciplines, has been questioned and reinterpreted in different – sometimes opposite – ways. The Mediterranean world is a paradigmatic example of this situation. Besides the geographical indication limited to the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, scholarship has shown that it is possible to identify several Mediterraneans, and that this term can be applied in a broader sense, according to multilinear trajectories of the circulation of knowledge. In this talk, I will present different ways of identifying the Mediterranean area, and of justifying its borders : from the appropriations of this spatial concept by historians with their own political agenda, to its investigation according to categories that are typical of global and post-colonial histories. Additionally, I will focus on medieval and early modern algebra, and I will show that algebraic texts represent a perfect case study whereby one can identify what I propose to call Mediterranean Mathematics. The delimitation of this spatial concept relies on the recognition of the arbitrariness of the concept of the “border”, and is the product of actors themselves and of the circulation of their texts.

Friday March 17, 2pm - 4pm

Collective discussion on the Centre’s past and future projects within the framework of HCERES

Friday April 7, 2pm - 4pm, !! Room Malevitch, 483A !!
: : Critical reflexions on Globalisation in History and Philosophy of Science

Organisation : Agathe Keller (CNRS, SPHere)

  • Eric Gurevitch (Vanderbilt University)
    Big-Enough Histories of Science : Medieval Sciences in the Time of the Global
  • collective discussion based on the review : Gurevitch, Eric Moses. “How Not to Tell the History of Science”. Boston Review, 22 Feb. 2023

Monday, 15th May, from 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm in room 569 Olympe de Gouges building 8 Rue Albert Einstein Paris 75013.

Research on the history of medicine and physicians in China in the 20th century

  • Jean Corbi ((PhD candidate Sciences Po)

    “Student or follower ? The transmission of Chinese medicine in Republican Sichuan”
  • Wenbo Liang ((PhD candidate SPHERE)

    Making "Acupuncture anesthesia" the paradigm for the "integration of Chinese and Western medicine " during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)

Comentator :
Sean Hsianglin Lei - Academia Sinica, Taiwan and guest professor at Université Paris Cité

Download program

friday 26th May, from 1.30 to 6.00 pm in Room 569 Olympe de Gouges building Université Paris Cité 8 rue Albert Einstein Paris 75013 

: : Uses of the categories of modern and modernity in the history of science

Presentation : Much ink has been spilled on the uses of categories of “modern” and “modernity” in the history of science. This session of our seminar aims to return to these issues to explore the benefits that could be derived from a critical examination of these uses, especially in a context in which historians deal with a global perspective.


  • 13h30—14h45
    Karine Chemla (SPHERE, CNRS—Université Paris Cité)
    Questioning how The Notion of Modern Science Structures Various
    Historiographies of science, despite the Differences between them
  • Break
  • 15h00—16h15
    Sean Hsiang-lin Lei 雷祥麟 (Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan and SPHERE, Université Paris Cité)
    Two visions of science-centered modernity in late Qing China
    And, Is modernity still a useful concept for the history of science ?
  • Break
  • 16h30—18h00
    Round table with the participation of :
    Florence Bretelle-Establet (SPHERE, CNRS—Université Paris Cité)
    Jean-Baptiste Grodwohl (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, SPHERE, CNRS—Université Paris Cité)
    Ken Daimaru (Maître de conférences, CRCAO & UFR LCAO, Université Paris Cité)
    Agathe Keller (SPHERE, CNRS—Université Paris Cité)
    Victor Seow (Harvard University)

    Download program

Friday June 16

Organisation : Justin E. H. Smith (Université Paris Cité, HPS, SPHere)

  • Daria Drozdova
    The Historiography of Philosophy in the Russia of the XIX and XX Centuries : The Formation and Transformation of the Canon of Early Modern Philosophy (an outline of the research project)

    Abstract : The history of the historiography of philosophy in the European and Russian contexts has been the main focus of my research in recent years. In my talk, I would like to present the structure and main research questions of my current project, which is devoted to the study of Russian-language scholarly texts on the history of philosophy of the XIX and XX centuries. It focuses on how the European historiography of philosophy and the philosophical canon were received and transformed in Russia in the pre-Soviet and Soviet periods. More specifically, I will focus on how the canon of early modern philosophy was represented in Russian-language textbooks and compendia. I ask how the changing ideological framework and historiographical narrative influenced the perception of who were the most important philosophers of the past. I show that the Soviet historiography of philosophy, while innovative in some respects, is rigidly bound to traditional notions of the canon in others. Finally, I will consider the question of the local and the universal in the history of philosophy and how it has been discussed in the Russian-language literature.
  • Next Year’s program

. . . . . .


Université Paris Cité – CNRS
Laboratoire SPHERE - UMR 7219
Building Condorcet, 4 rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris
Plan your itinerary with the Parisian Public Transport

Metro line 14 / RER C / Stop : Bibliothèque François Mitterrand
Metro line 6 / Stop : Quai de la Gare
Bus 64 / Stop : Tolbiac-Bibliothèque François Mitterrand
Buses 62 & 89 / Stop : Avenue de France or Bibliothèque François Mitterrand (terminus)
Bus 325 / Stop : Watt

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