China Lunch #4: Presentation of the MPIWG working groups "Agriculture in the Making of Sciences, 1100-1700" and "Ability and Authority" by Chun XU and Qiao YANG
The working group “Agriculture and the Making of Sciences, 1100-1700” explores how agricultural practices shaped pre-modern understandings of nature and informed the emergent “sciences” in disparate cultural and literary traditions across the world. It places at its centre the study of agricultural practices documented in Classical Chinese, Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish. In addition to farming manuals and treatises, the group also examines diverse forms of agricultural knowledge that did not conveniently fit into the discrete scholarly categories of their respective times.
The working group "Ability and Authority" researches communities of practice, work, and labour in the Yuan and early to mid-Ming periods (1200-1450), inquiring into the development of expertise and occupational cultures beyond continuities and ruptures in state authority and state control over social status. The Yuan explicitly and systematically valued and recognized varied abilities other than literati bookish knowledge and scholarly skills; and its practice influenced Ming, until renewed commercialization overtook bureaucratic management of labour and expertise. This project takes a cross-dynastic and cross-cultural approach to critical engagement with the question of how politics and political event history affected, were affected by, and failed to affect the development of greater China’s knowledge cultures beyond literati preoccupations.
Both working groups are based at Department III “Artefacts, Action, Knowledge” of the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (MPIWG), directed by Prof. Dagmar Schäfer, with participants and collaborators from across the world. The working groups at Department III are longer-term iniatives for a particular research theme. Every year, we invite visiting scholars to join the working groups in Berlin.
Chun XU 徐淳 works on the history of knowledge and environmental thought in late imperial China. As a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, he is working on a project that examines the political epistemology of water control in late imperial China, tracing the emergence of the Chinese term shuili 水利 as both a political concept and a branch of statecraft-oriented scholarship.
Qiao YANG 楊巧 works on institutions of knowledge, with a special focus on China and the Islamic world in the Mongol era (13th–14th centuries). At the MPIWG, Qiao is the leader of the “Ability and Authority” working group, where she develops a project on the local state divination schools in Yuan (1271–1368) China. Qiao’s research interests include history of astronomy/astrology, history of divination, social and cultural history of the Mongol Empire, and cross-cultural contact between premodern China and the Islamic world.
Room opens for small talk: 11:50