© 2017 by Materiality of Knowledge. Background photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection. 

3-5 Sept. 2019, Yuelu Academy, Hunan University

We are glad to announce the launch of 'Materiality of Knowledge in Chinese Thought: Past and Present'. 

The Conference of the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures at The Queens’ College in the University of Oxford will be held at Yuelu Academy, Hunan University from the 3rd (Tuesday) to the 5th (Thursday) of September, 2019. 

All are welcome but attendance is by registration only. 

                                                                                       - Dirk Meyer, Stefano Gandolfo and Peter Ditmanson

CONFERENCE THEME AND CALL FOR PAPERS

Knowledge is shaped, sustained, and framed by socio-material factors and this conference aims to explore the ways in which materiality has affected and will continue to affect the perception, processing, and production of knowledge in China. The conceptualisation of knowledge – which functions as a nexus between a pre-theoretical worldview and the institutionalisation of learning – lends itself as a gateway into understanding China (and beyond) both more deeply and broadly. We consider the following questions central to our project: How do changes in materiality over time affect the ways in which knowledge is perceived, processed, produced, and presented? What is the impact of materiality on the conceptualisation of knowledge? And how does it influence the means by which knowledge is put together and held apart? 

We think of ‘materiality’ in its broadest sense. We use it as an umbrella term for everything that is constitutive in the formation of knowledge. This includes things such as the material conditions of texts and collections of texts as encompassed by the physical media through which they are produced, transmitted, and (trans-)formed; strategies which produce meaning beyond the purely lexical level of signification as encoded in structure, layout, and function; the location of carriers of knowledge in the world, as well as their relation to the world. 

 

 

Contemporary rubbing of a 10th century stele said to be a copy of an inscription taken from Mt. Yi in Shandong. The inscription eulogises the virtuous power of Qin and was ordered by the First Emperor around 219-210 BC when he visited various mountains around his empire. Written in small seal script by chancellor Li Si (d. 208 BC). 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

'Materiality' as an analytical category therefore describes the summation of elements that contribute to the formation of knowledge, in both production and reception, which are, however, habitually overlooked.

‘Knowledge’, for the intended purposes of the conference, is understood as encompassing both information and facts as well as argumentation and meaning. How different and changing conditions of materiality affect or even determine what ultimately qualifies as knowledge lies at the core of this conference. 

We invite abstract submissions for papers that deal with issues of materiality of knowledge in the following three spheres:

 

  1. The Materiality of Text Production and Text Performance

Issues to explore are: (a) the mechanisms through which changes in materiality alter the content of recorded knowledge and the processes of recording meaning; (b) the impact of material stationary on the production of texts; and (c) the impact of materiality on the performance texts.

 

List of topics includes but is not limited to:

  1. Oracle bones and bronzes

  2. Bamboo and silk

  3. Paper, printing, and binding

  4. Steles and rubbings

  5. Internet Literature(s)

 

   2. The Materiality of Collections and Anthologies

Issues to explore are: (a) the transformations of knowledge organization in congshu (叢書) and leishu (類書) collections as a result of changes in material conditions; and (b) the nature, structure, and make-up of compilations and anthologies.

 

List of topics include but is not limited to:

  1. Anthologizing canonical texts

  2. Material change and genre formation

  3. Congshu and leishu

  4. Encyclopedias and primers

  5. Digitization

 

  3. The Materiality of Libraries and Archives

Issues to explore are: (a) the impact of paper, printing, and digitization on the conceptualization and organization of textual storage; and (b) the influence of changes in the material conditions of record keeping and structure of libraries and archives.

 

List of topics include but is not limited to:

  1. Libraries and archives

  2. Buddhist and Daoist monastic libraries

  3. The Internet and search engines

 

We envision this to be one of two conferences: the first, conceptualizing the field on the materiality of knowledge in China and the second, reaching out into cross- and inter-disciplinary research with a cross-cultural focus.

 

知識是由社會物質因素塑造和承擔的,這次會議旨在探索物質性(materiality)已經并將繼續影響古今中國思想中的知識的獲取、處理和生產的方式。知識的概念化作為前理論的世界觀和學習的制度化之間的交叉點發揮著作用,因此可以被當做更加深入廣泛地理解中國(及其外圍)的一個途徑。下列問題是本課題的中心:物質性如何隨著時間的改變影響知識獲取、處理和生產的方式?物質性對知識的概念化有什麼作用?以及它是如何影響整合及分離知識的方法的?

 

我們把“物質性”用作一個描述語言之外的意義編碼的分析性範疇。它充當著建構知識形成的要素的一個總括性術語。這些要素包括如:內在于物理媒介,并以此被生產、流通和轉化文本和文集的物質條件;編碼于結構、佈局和功能之中并因此超出了詞彙層面含義的意義的生產策略;知識載體在世界中的位置及它們和世界的關係。作為中國思想研究中的一個分析性範疇,物質性描述了促成知識在生產和接收中形成的元素的總和。會議預期目的將“知識”理解為既包含信息和事實,也包含論證和意義。

 

因此,物質性的不同和變化的條件如何影響、甚至決定什麼最終算作知識是本次會議的核心。所以,會議研究的是在中國及其之外的古今思想生產中十分關鍵、但被習慣性忽視了的元素。通過本次中國思想研究,中國將作為跨學科對話的一個案例發揮作用,也將為對多元哲學的全球性討論提供一個出發點。