Holy Cross Conference to Reframe History of Science in Middle East and North Africa Region

March 6th, 2017 by 

Carla Nappi
Carla Nappi, associate professor of history and Canada Research Chair of Early Modern Studies at the University of British Columbia.

Carla Nappi, associate professor of history and Canada Research Chair of Early Modern Studies at the University of British Columbia, will offer the keynote address at a conference titled “Globalization of Science in the Middle East and North Africa, 18th-20th Centuries” at the College of the Holy Cross, March 24 and 25. All conference sessions will be held in Rehm Library and are free and open to the public. Attendees are also invited to view the conference schedule.

The conference will bring together international scholars to explore important issues related to the history of science in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during a critical period of change and modernization. Conference participants will present papers which consider the nature of encounters between Islamic societies and the west as the balance of power between these regions shifted Europe’s favor, including the role of science in modernization and development in the MENA region, the relationship between modern science and Islam, the effects of European imperialism on the spread of modern science in the Global South, and the use of science and technology by MENA states and societies to combat foreign domination in the region.

“As a way of understanding the globalization of science in non-European contexts, scholars have turned to the field sciences such as natural history, geology, and cartographic surveying, highlighting these disciplines’ intimate connection to imperial conquest and global trade networks,” said Sahar Bazzaz, associate professor of history at Holy Cross, and a conference organizer. “But this perspective problematically attributes the spread of science in the Middle East to often violent impositions by Europeans. This conference will challenge the ‘science as imposition’ narrative and seek to develop a more nuanced understanding of the globalization of science in the region.”

Nappi’s address, which will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24, is titled, “Look at the Fish: Decomposing Global Histories of Science.” Her current research explores the history of bodies and their translations in early modern Eurasia. Her book “The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and its Transformations in Early Modern China” (Harvard, 2009) was a study of belief-making in early modern Chinese natural history. She also hosts the New Books in East Asia and New Books in STS podcasts, and writes short fiction.

Other presenters will include:

  • Duygu Yildirim, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University and visiting fellow in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University
  • Victoria N. Meyer, assistant professor of history at the University of Arizona
  • Kenan Tekin, Ph.D. in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies, Columbia University
  • Jane Murphy, associate professor of history at Colorado College
  • Hakan Karateke, professor of Ottoman and Turkish culture, language and literature and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago
  • Rebecca Gould, reader in comparative literature and translation studies at the University of Bristol (UK) and author of “Writers and Rebels: The Literatures of Insurgency in the Caucasus” (Yale University Press, 2016)
  • On Barak, senior lecturer, Department of Middle Eastern & African History at Tel Aviv University and author, “On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt” (University of California Press, 2013)
  • Daniel Stolz, visiting assistant professor of history at Northwestern University
  • Jennifer L. Derr, assistant professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Taylor Moore, Ph.D. candidate specializing in Modern Middle Eastern History at Rutgers University
  • Elise K. Burton, Ph.D. candidate, joint program for history and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University
  • William Carruthers, Gerda Henkel Stiftung Research Scholar and visiting guest scholar, German Historical Institute London

The conference is sponsored by the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture and supported by the Rehm Family Fund. Learn more at the Globalization of Science in the Middle East and North Africa, 18th-20th Centuries webpage. 

For additional information, please contact Jessica Kennedy at 508-793-2419.

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