We are delighted to announce the winners of our 2022 funding competition.
CEMS recently invited doctoral students and early career researchers to apply for a share of up to £1,500 to support a conference, symposium, or workshop on an interdisciplinary early modern research topic. Proposals were judged on how far they facilitated the CEMS mission: furthering interdisciplinarity in early modern studies. This year we are supporting three conferences and offering one-off funding to support an interdisciplinary seminar series. The ranking below reflects the Steering Committee’s judgement of the proposals with respect to CEMS’s goal of fostering conversations between disciplines, area studies and languages in early modern studies across Oxford and beyond. Our funding is limited; we endeavour to offer support according to merit, but the amount we are able to give is not in itself a measurement of that merit.
'Authority and the Global Early Modern: Translation and Transformation'.
History Faculty Building, 20 April 2023.
Organised by Hannah Dongsun-Lee and Jacob Fordham
Abbreviated conference report:
On the 20th of April, Jacob Fordham (AMES DPhil, University College) and Hannah Dongsun Lee (History DPhil, St Edmund Hall) organised the conference ‘Authority and the Global Early Modern: Translation and Transformation,’ generously supported by the CEMS event funding. Our conference featured the emerging scholarship of early modern global history and the new approaches and methodologies surrounding it. In particular, we tried to address that early modern global encounters may be discussed more productively if we understand them in terms of connection, interaction, and negotiation, rather than competition, clash, or one-way reception. In order to explore this possibility, we chose the concept of authority and called for papers that examined the ways in which the early modern conditions of global connectivity projected, translated, and transformed the ideas and representations of authority.
We had eight excellent papers from five institutions that answered our calls in various ways. We divided the papers into three panels, each highlighting ‘The intellectual challenge of non-Western authorities,’ ‘The global projections of authority,’ and ‘The construction of political authority in an age of global encounters.’ The panels were wonderfully chaired by our own Professors Giuseppe Marcocci, Saliha Belmessous, and Erica Charters. The keynote speaker was Professor Leigh Jenco (LSE) who has been pioneering the field of global history (among others) and coined powerful terms such as ‘history in between’ and ‘co-production of knowledge’ on a global scale.
The first panel, ‘The intellectual challenge of non-Western authorities,’ chaired by Professor Marcocci, discussed how the primarily ‘Western’ figures experienced the world beyond their familiar intellectual cultures and negotiated their understanding of conventional canonical writings. All speakers illustrated the complex process of reframing traditional authorities in the face of new knowledge, languages, and material conditions. The chair facilitated discussions on the nature of knowledge and the exact character of encounters that shaped those experiences.
The second panel, ‘The global projections of authority,’ chaired by Professor Belmessous, focused on the centrifugal directions of representing royal and cultural authorities. The speakers showed not only the evolving representation of authorities outside the political and cultural ‘centres,’ but also the importance of the physical materials in understanding early modern authority. The chair enriched the discussion by suggesting the multicentred nature of the production of authority.
Before the third panel, Professor Jenco gave an enlightening keynote lecture on her recent research about folksongs and the construction of national identity in China. Focusing on the emotional link between past and present put forward by a folksong collector and historian, Professor Jenco suggested the place of human senses in constructing authority, and ways to think about popular authority without the Western languages of resistance and subversion.
The final panel, ‘The construction of political authority in an age of global encounters,’ chaired by Professor Charters, reconsidered diplomatic relations as a malleable and co-productive process rather than a competing or hierarchical one. The speakers highlighted the government-level conversations and interactions that shaped political institutions, borders, and objects. The chair asked about the idea of ‘success’ across these schemes, and stimulated the discussion about the evolution of diplomatic relations and the idea of location in global history.
We had more than thirty audiences throughout the day, who were served coffee and sandwiches purchased with the CEMS fund. Thanks to the fund, we were able to maintain lively conversations among all participants over lunch and break. We hope that the conference offered a place to explore new directions in global history and to meet scholars from different areas and institutions. We really appreciate our chairs for facilitating the panels with exceptional grace, and Professor Jenco for being extremely engaging throughout the conference.
'The Material Culture of Early Modern Warfare'
21 April 2023, Oxford
Organised by Dr Róisín Watson
This two-day international conference will bring together scholarship on warfare and early modern material culture to produce a deeper understanding of conflict through an object-based lens. While military conflict continues to be seen by scholars as a defining characteristic of the early modern period, recent histories have moved away from grand narratives of military operations to consider the experience of war, placing at the centre of our understanding of this conflict the community relationships that were created and reshaped by war, as well as the cultural experience of trauma. There are countless moments where experiences of conflict and responses to it took material form. By broadening our perspective on what constitutes an object of war we can begin to see how everyday items gained new meaning when they became entangled with conflict due to their proximity to destruction and displacement. The conference will bring together an interdisciplinary, intergenerational group of scholars from Art History, History and Archaeology from across Europe.
Conference report to be issued shortly.
Court Studies Research Seminars
Organised by Hanna Sinclair
Seminar series report:
Oxford's Court Studies seminar was inaugurated in Trinity 2022, intending to unite scholars across Humanities disciplines working in the study of courts, courtiers, monarchies, dynasties, and the written, musical, and artistic production of these groups. With the encouragement of established scholars such as Profs. Hamish Scott and Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, our nascent group met in hybrid form initially, with interest from postholders, professors emeritus, and grad students from History, English Literature, Medieval and Modern Languages, and Art History.
With the generous contribution from the Centre for Early Modern Studies, we have continued to build and expand this community in Hilary and Trinity 2023. We hosted seven speakers, with four coming from other institutions, including one from Belgium, and dedicated one session (as in last year’s series) to graduate students. The audience was on average fifteen to twenty scholars, many of whom were regulars, but over the two terms we had more than thirty-five unique attendees. The financial assistance from CEMS has helped in two ways: firstly, by paying for dinner for these speakers following the seminar, making it slightly less onerous for these scholars to come to Oxford. Secondly, by supplying wine and soft drinks following the 4:30pm seminars, which encouraged attendees to stay afterwards and mingle, a chance for scholars working on diverse fields, periods, and geographic areas to meet and talk about their research. These connections are particularly invaluable for grad students, who (from personal experience) often feel intimidated to go to another location for a drink following the seminar.
So, thank you to CEMS for helping us to establish a vibrant and supporting network across disciplines, which will continue with a full year of speakers in 2023-24. I must also thank Prof. David Parrott, who has provided hospitality for some of our speakers, and Maximilan Diemer, who has assisted with the running of the seminars, and will be joining me as co-convenor in the next academic year.
‘Questioning Western Philosophy: Philosophical, Historical and Historiographical Challenges.
28-30 April 2023, Worcester College, Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Oxford.
This award was made to Lea Cantor on behalf of a cross-disciplinary organising committee (working in collaboration with Philiminality Oxford).
Abbreviated conference report:
Questioning ‘Western Philosophy’ was the first international conference dedicated to the subject of how the idea of ‘Western philosophy’ was constructed, and the legacies of this construction on subsequent philosophy and intellectual history. The conference took place in April 2023 at Worcester College, University of Oxford. The invited speakers were Prof. Linda Martín Alcoff, Prof. Peter Adamson, Prof. Lucy Allais, Prof. Robert Bernasconi, Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Prof. Lewis Gordon, Dr Kimberly Ann Harris, Prof. Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, Prof. Catherine König-Pralong, Prof. Lin Ma, Prof. Christoph Schuringa, and Dr Yoko Arisaka. The speakers selected through a competitive CfA were Dr Lilith W. Lee, Dr Saloni de Souza, Sarah Bernard-Granger, Allan M. Hillani, Dr Lerato Posholi, Dr Kadir Filiz, and Dr Daniel James Smith. In addition, four of the organizers gave papers: Lea Cantor, Jonathan Egid, Dr Josh Platzky Miller, and Dr Dmitri Levitin. Chairs included the current Chair of the Philosophy Faculty Board at Oxford, Professor Ursula Coope; the current Director of Graduate Studies in the Philosophy Faculty at Oxford, Prof. Luca Castagnoli; Prof. Faridah Zaman (History, Oxford); Dr Alesia Preite (Philosophy, Oxford); Maya Krishan (Philosophy, Oxford); and Justin Holder (Philosophy, Oxford).
Overall, the conference was a resounding success, and we have received strongly positive feedback from speakers and guest attendees. Building on work from, inter alia, the history of philosophy, global intellectual history, intercultural and comparative philosophy, critical philosophy of ‘race’, and decolonial studies, the conference explored the concept of ‘Western Philosophy’ from philosophical, historical, and historiographical perspectives. It brought together scholars working across multiple philosophical traditions from around the world, and drew together many of the specific debates that have taken place within these fields with a view to exploring their broader significance for our understanding of philosophy and its history.
The conference speakers tackled several of the thorny issues at stake: the legitimacy of descriptors, such as ‘Western’, when applied to philosophy (especially if considered a universal practice of human reason); the historical circumstances for the emergence of the idea of ‘Western Philosophy’ and the narratives associated with it; and the ways in which disciplinary histories of philosophy often presents ‘Western Philosophy’ as equivalent to ‘Philosophy’ as such, implying the exclusion of non-European philosophical traditions from the mainstream 'canon'.