Pre-Industrial Technologies of Knowledge

DATE: August 30–31, 2013

PLACE: 300 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley

SPONSORS: The Walter and Elise Haas Chair in Asian Studies at the UC Berkeley Institute for East Asian Studies, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Department of Art History, the Center for Chinese Studies, the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society, the Center for British Studies, the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, the Marjorie Meyer Eliaser Chair of International Studies, and the Department of English



We live in a world of specialties and specialists. Our universities divide the humanities from the social sciences, the social sciences from the hard sciences, and one department from another. Our medical practitioners are not also priests, barbers, or even pharmacists, but specialists in narrowly demarcated fields. While there have been moves toward holistic practices in medicine and interdisciplinarity in the academy, such institutions are still predominantly compartmentalized. Such divisions are especially pronounced in technical fields.

Is this specialization a hallmark of industrialized society? The divisions we customarily draw between scientific knowledge, religious practice, the literary arts, music, and historiography, to name just a few examples, may seem natural, but the presence or absence of such divisions in pre-industrial societies is open to question. How were the varieties of knowledge and practice constructed in other historical and cultural contexts?

With a focus on several regions and time periods, the participants in our conference will investigate knowledge, skills, techniques, and arts as they were conceived in a variety of contexts before industrialization. In so doing, we hope to understand better such things on their own terms, and we hope at the same time to reflect back upon our own society, and its apparent penchant for specialization.

The images used in the banner above are a star map from China (British Library S.3326), which dates to between 649 and 684, and a figure with cautery points from late-12th century England (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ashmole 1462, fol. 9r).



11:00am – 11:15am — Opening remarks

11:15am – 1:00pm
Panel 1: Space, Power, and the Political

  1. Amanda Buster (PhD Candidate in History, UC Berkeley)
    Official and Unofficial Power in the Western Han Mausoleum Towns at Chang'an
  2. Yun-ling Wang (PhD Candidate in East Asian Languages & Cultures, UC Berkeley)
    To Summon the Soul: Imagining the Cosmos in 'Zhaohun' 招魂 and Its Early Commentaries
  3. Paul Kosmin (Assistant Professor of Classics, Harvard University)
    Mobility and Integration in the Seleucid Empire

1:00pm – 2:30pm — Break for lunch

2:30pm – 4:30pm
Panel 2: Interpreting the Unknown

  1. Scott Paul McGinnis (PhD Candidate in History, UC Berkeley)
    History and the Arts of Auspiciousness in an Early Chinese Bibliography
  2. Benjamin A. Saltzman (PhD Candidate in English & Medieval Studies, UC Berkeley)
    Unbinding Servants and Solving Riddles in the Old English Apollonius of Tyre and the Exeter Book
  3. Alexandre Roberts (PhD Candidate in History, UC Berkeley)
    Reading Matter's Creation through a Late Antique Lens in Eleventh-Century Antioch
  4. Mary Kate Hurley (Assistant Professor of English, Ohio University)
    The Dangers of Acquisition: Topographies of Knowledge in the MS Cotton Tiberius B.xii

Moderated by Emily V. Thornbury (Assistant Professor of English, UC Berkeley)

4:30pm – 5:00pm — Coffee break

5:00pm – 6:30pm
Keynote Lecture 1

Elaine Treharne (Professor of English, Stanford University)
Securing Permanence through Manuscript Testimony

6:30pm – 7:30pm — Reception


10:30am – 12:00pm
Panel 3: Technology of Media

  1. Yueni Zhong (PhD Candidate in Art History, UC Berkeley)
    The Truth Is Out There: Cai Guo-qiang's Projects for Extraterrestrials
  2. Marcos Garcia (PhD Candidate, English & Medieval Studies, UC Berkeley)
    Medieval Multimedia: Making Sense of Form in Boniface's Carmen Figuratum
  3. William Ma (PhD Candidate in Art History, UC Berkeley)
    Jesuits, Orphans, and Pagodas: Displaying New China at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition

12:00pm – 1:00pm — Break for lunch

1:00pm – 2:30pm
Panel 4: Space: Representation, Divination, and Persuasion

  1. Sharon Sanderovitch (PhD Candidate in East Asian Languages and Cultures, UC Berkeley)
    Pliable Numbers: Numerology, Diagrams, and Rhetoric in the Mawangdui 'Nine Rulers'
  2. Claire Yi Yang (PhD Candidate in History, UC Berkeley)
    Death across Time and Space: Date Divination and Geomantic Siting of Burials in Tang China (618 – 907)
  3. Karl Whittington (Assistant Professor of Art History, Ohio State University)
    Body / Earth: Unpacking an Analogy

Moderated by Nickolas Tackett (Assistant Professor of History, UC Berkeley)

2:30pm – 3:00pm — Coffee break

3:00pm – 4:30pm
Panel 5: Stars and Society

  1. Andrew Griebeler (PhD Candidate in Art History, UC Berkeley)
    Statues and Stars in Medieval Constantinople
  2. Jesse Chapman (PhD Candidate in East Asian Languages & Cultures, UC Berkeley)
    Scientific Value, Local Statecraft, and the Empire of the Sage: Framing the Observation of the Heavens in Early China
  3. Kristina Buhrman (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Florida State University)
    How to Know the Stars: Archive, Network and Observation in Early Medieval Japan

Moderated by Beate Fricke (Associate Professor of Art History, UC Berkeley)

4:30pm – 5:00pm — Coffee break

5:00pm – 6:30pm
Keynote Lecture 2

Lothar Von Falkenhausen (Professor of Art History, UCLA)
Technology, Esthetics, and Mentality in Early China: Archaeological Reflections on Their Interrelations

6:30pm – 7:30pm — Reception


Keynote Lectures

We are pleased to be able to host two keynote lecturers who reflect some of the broad research interests of our group members and conference participants.

Keynote Lecture 1: Friday August 30, 5:00pm – 6:30pm

Elaine Treharne, Professor of English at Stanford University, will give a lecture entitled "Securing Permanence through Manuscript Testimony."
Professor Elaine Treharne's main research interest is Early English manuscripts—their materiality, contents and contexts of production and reception. She has published widely in this area over the last twenty years, focusing most specifically on religious poetry and prose and manuscripts dating from c. 1020 to c. 1220. A prolific writer and editor, her recent publications include Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020 to 1200 (OUP, 2012), The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English, edited with Greg Walker (OUP, 2010), and Old and Middle English: An Anthology, 890-1450 (3rd ed., Blackwell, 2009).

The use of digital technology in scholarly research and pedagogy is another area of interest for Professor Treharne, especially the ways in which manuscripts are displayed and palaeographical and codicological tools are employed on the web. In this regard, she served as Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project and ebook, The Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1060 to 1220, which ran from 2005 to 2010, and she is involved in a number of international projects that seek to investigate and develop new ways of exploring the rich Medieval cultures of the book, including the newly founded International Manuscript Technologies Forum.

Keynote Lecture 2: Saturday, August 31, 5:00pm – 6:30pm

Lothar Von Falkenhausen, Professor of Art History at UCLA, will give a lecture entitled "Technology, Esthetics, and Mentality in Early China: Archaeological Reflections on Their Interrelations."
Professor Lothar von Falkenhausen's research concerns the archaeology of the Chinese Bronze Age, focusing on large interdisciplinary and historical issues on which archaeological materials can provide significant new information. One example of this orientation are his numerous publications on musical instruments (especially chime-bells), culminating in his book Suspended Music (UC Press, 1993). Other publications concern ancient Chinese bronzes and their inscriptions, ritual, regional cultures, archaeological synthesis, ancient trans-Asiatic contacts, and methodological issues. As the American co-PI of the ongoing Peking University-UCLA Joint Archaeological Project, he is directing excavations at ancient salt-production sites in the Yangzi River Basin. He also serves as the editor of the Journal of East Asian Archaeology and the Early China Special Monographs Series.


Conference Participants

Kristina Buhrman received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern California in 2012, and is currently Assistant Professor for Japanese religions in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. She has been a foreign researcher at the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, a fellow at the Needham Institute, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies department of the University of Missouri. Her dissertation was on the social politics of elite knowledge about time and astrology in early medieval Japan, and her current research continues that with a focus on the development of Onmyōdō.

Mary Kate Hurley is an Assistant Professor of English at Ohio University. Her research interests include Old and Middle English translations, media theory, and ideas of community in the Middle Ages. Her article on temporality and community in the Old English Orosius will appear in the October volume of the Journal of English and Germanic Philology.

Paul Kosmin is an Assistant Professor of Classics, Harvard University. His dissertation examines the relationship between the kings of the Seleucid dynasty and the landscape, from Bactria to Thrace, over which they ruled. More generally, he is interested in Hellenistic kingship and imperialism, ancient ethnography, interactions between the Greek and Near Eastern worlds, and Greek epigraphy.

William H. Ma is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art Department at the University of California - Berkeley. His main research interests include Jesuit missionary art in China, Cantonese export art and craft, and questioning the concept of "Chinese art" inside and outside the geo-political border of China. His dissertation focuses on a late-19th to early-20th century Jesuit orphanage in Shanghai and the art and craft workshops there.

Alex Roberts is a PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley in Byzantine and Middle Eastern History. He is writing a dissertation on the significance which eleventh-century intellectuals in the eastern Mediterranean attached to the transformation of matter.

Karl Whittington is an Assistant Professor of History of Art at The Ohio State University. His research focuses on the intersections of art, science and spirituality in medieval representation, particularly maps, drawings and diagrams. He has published articles on medieval maps, medical reproductive diagrams, queer studies, and Caspar David Friedrich, and his book, "Body-Worlds: Opicinus de Canistris and the Medieval Cartographic Imagination," is forthcoming from the Press of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto.

  • Amanda Buster (History)
  • Jesse Chapman, Co-Chair (East Asian Languages & Cultures)
  • Marcos Garcia (English & Medieval Studies)
  • Andrew Griebeler (Art History)
  • Scott Paul McGinnis, Treasurer (History)
  • Benjamin A. Saltzman, Co-Chair (English & Medieval Studies)
  • Sharon Sanderovitch (East Asian Languages & Cultures)
  • Yun-ling Wang (East Asian Languages & Cultures)
  • Claire Yi Yang (History)
  • Yueni Zhong (Art History)



Lectures and panels for "Pre-Industrial Technologies of Knowledge" will be held in 300 Wheeler Hall, which is located in the center of campus, just west of the Sather Gate. Visiters can follow this link for a map of Berkeley's campus.

Wheeler Hall

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