Exchange of Knowledge Between Literate Cultures

Activity: Participating in an event - typesOrganisation of and participation in conference

Robert William Middeke-Conlin - Organizer

Anuj Misra - Organizer

This conference explores the different aspects of how knowledge is exchanged between literate cultures. We recognise that in exchanges between literate cultures, knowledge is often construed, constructed, and contextualized to adapt to a recipient’s culture. This transformation is subject to the historical, philosophical, sociopolitical, and scientific traditions prevalent among the recipient people. As these traditions change with the passage of time and the movement of people, so too does the locus and language of literacy in those cultures.

Here we speak of literacy as a part of this changing episteme of a society, noting in particular three varieties of literacy: prose, document, and numeracy. The ability to read and comprehend a text (the prose), understand and manipulate its format (the document), and interpret and calculate with the numerical symbols (the numeracy) that may accompany, compliment, influence, or even constitute the text offers a tripartite image of the society’s knowledge system. The movement of this knowledge between cultures, societies, or communities involves a translation of the mode, the medium, and the mathematics.

Every society experiences different levels of literacy—from the basic functional literacy that allows actors to read short texts, understand simple formats, and perform basic (numerical and metrological) calculations to the full erudite literacy where actors are able to interact with and manipulate all aspects of a text. As the locus of interactions changes, different knowledge systems from different cultures mark their presence in the literary practices of a society, e.g., Syrian numerical practices seen in Babylonian texts, or the multiple mathematical traditions at play in imperial China, or even the discussions on Islamicate astronomy in Sanskrit texts from Mughal India. These interactions create and nurture the conceptual space in which ideas are continually appropriated, assimilated, or repudiated with the varying levels of literacy in those societies.

To understand the dynamics of these movements, we bring together scholars working on diverse aspects of knowledge transfer within and between literate cultures and in historical periods spanning from the ancient to the modern. The titles and abstracts of the talks to be presented at the conference are included here in the alphabetical order of the contributors’ names.
19 Jul 202121 Jul 2021


ConferenceExchange of Knowledge Between Literate Cultures
LocationUniversity of Copenhagen
Internet address

ID: 276168731