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Empires of Knowledge: Environments Between the Colony and the Globe

Thu, March 30, 8:30 to 10:00am, The Drake Hotel, Huron

Session Submission Type: Panel


Late modernity was marked by radical changes in the scope and scale of scientific and technological endeavors that brought with them a transformation of the Earth into a world of lines, definitions, and criteria. The drive towards an increased standardization of data, metrics, and practices went hand in hand with new conceptions of environments – or indeed the global environment in the singular – as connected, interdependent, fragile, and malleable. These parallel developments were embedded in a new wave of explorations, the crystallization of new institutional frameworks, new technologies of communication, transport, and analysis, and the nature of imperial power relations.
Economic, political, and cultural reasons alike stood behind the imperial and colonial endeavors of the time and consequently influenced the development of science and new visions of the environment. This panel aims to look specifically at the role of empires, world politics, and the revolutionarily global dimensions of nineteenth-century science in determining how new conceptions of environments beyond the local scale developed – be they regional, continental, oceanic, or planetary – and interacted with diverse sets of cultural and social practices.
To achieve this the case studies will look at the role of ideas, networks, and infrastructures in the deployment of this globalization of knowledge from the perspective of very diverse disciplines. Nurfadzilah Yahaya looks at the evolution of slaughtering practices between religious and colonial preoccupations in British Malaya. Dale Stahl addresses the impact of local and imperial perspectives on the water management policies implemented by the British after WWI in Mesopotamia. Kate Wersan looks at the search for a universal organic time in nineteenth century gardening and seafaring. Finally, Wilko Graf von Hardenberg discusses the cooperative and international nature of debates about the level of the sea and their role in the planning of colonial infrastructural projects.

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