History of Knowledge Seminar Series @ Utrecht University
“Bureaucracy as Knowledge” with Christine von Oertzen (MPIWG, Berlin) and Sebastian Felten (University of Vienna)
Thursday, June 10, 2021, 15:30-17:00 (CET)
Online via Microsoft Teams (registration not required)
Bureaucracy was a term of critique that in Europe around 1900 became an analytical concept for world-historical comparison, most prominently in the work of Max Weber. Against this background, the multi-authored publication Histories of Bureaucratic Knowledge develops a non-Weberian approach of analysing bureaucratic procedures as knowledge processes, a method we term “bureaucracy as knowledge.” This approach builds on historical epistemology and aims to recover actors’ ways of organising social and natural world rather than to judge them by modernist, Western standards. We found surprising similarities across our cases, such as the use of questionnaires in the medieval Latin West and in colonial German New Guinea, or of calendars in the Ottoman Empire and Central Europe.
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The earliest extant Chinese mathematical writings include two types of components of particular interest for our discussion on manuals and handbooks. On the one hand, there are mathematical problems that often evoke tasks carried out by officials working in the imperial bureaucracy. On the other hand, there are mathematical “procedures,” or “algorithms” in today’s parlance, to solve such problems. This description fits most of the mathematical books composed in China until the seventh century.
Continue reading “Reading and (Re-)Classifying Canonical Instructions of the Past: Commentaries on ‘The Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures’ from the 3rd to the 13th Centuries” →
In 1936, actor Ian Keith petitioned a Los Angeles court to change his legal name. Born in Boston as Ian Macaulay Ross in 1899, Keith had honed his skills on Broadway stages before transitioning to the silver screen. By the mid-1930s, he was a familiar face in dozens of Hollywood films. He played the assassin John Wilkes Booth in Abraham Lincoln (1930), D. W. Griffith’s first “talkie,” and appeared in several Cecil B. DeMille epics, including The Sign of the Cross (1932) and Cleopatra (1934). Audiences knew him as Ian Keith, the stage name he had settled on in the early 1920s. Keith’s petition sought to make this public identity official.
Continue reading “Economic Personae: The Making of Financial Identity in America” →