Contact – Conquest – Colonization: Practices of Comparing between Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, from Antiquity to Present

Eleonora Rohland's picture
October 11, 2018 to October 13, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Humanities, Intellectual History, World History / Studies

In September 2016, Bielefeld University was awarded a major national grant for a collaborative research center (Sonderforschungsbereich) on “Practices of Comparing.” This collaborative endeavor brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from five different faculties (history, literature, philosophy, law, and political sciences). With projects ranging historically from antiquity to the twenty- first century and spatially from Europe to Southern India, West Africa, the Philippines and the Americas, our overarching aim is to uncover the dynamic force of practices of comparing for macro-scale historical transformation processes. We are hence shedding light on contexts within which comparison occurs, and on their role in processes of historical change, rather than looking at comparison as a method – a nuance that makes an important difference.

Within the context of this interdisciplinary research program, several groups work on instances of European, American, and Asian cultural contact, conquest, and/ or colonization, which seem to be particularly pertinent contexts to research practices of comparing. In getting to terms with the astounding and novel “realities” of Asian, African, and American cultures, Europeans drew on the ancient canon of knowledge and topoi that had emerged in the context of contact and conquest of Greek antiquity in order to describe cultural phenomena.

With this conference, we would therefore like to bring together scholars studying practices of comparing in situations of cultural contact, conquest, and colonization in different parts of the world, throughout all historical epochs –  from antiquity to the present – and across disciplines.



Thursday, October 11, 2018


11:00-12:00                Arrival and Registration


12:00-12:30                Welcome and Intro by the Organizers



12:30-15:30                PANEL 1: Gender and Marriage in China, the Philippines, and India

Chair: Ralf Schneider (Bielefeld)


Nadine Amsler (University of Bern)„What Makes a Chinese Man a Man? Early Modern Jesuits’ Comparisons between European and Chinese Gender Arrangements“


Marya Svetlana Camacho (University of Asia & the Pacific) „Bridging the Gap: Spanish Missionaries’ Perspectives on Marriage in the Philippines in the Period of Contact“


Subhasree Ghosh (University of Calcutta)“‘Our’ Women, ‘Their’ Women: Marriage and modernisation in nineteenth century colonial India”



15:30-16:00                Coffee Break


16:00-18:00                PANEL 2: Moors and Secret Societies in (North-)Africa

                                   Chair: Marcus Hartner (Bielefeld)


                                          Sara Mehlmer (Leibnitz Institute for European History (IEG) Mainz)

„Spain and its North African ‘other’ in the 19th century. Ambivalent practices of comparing“


Stepahnie Zehnle (University of Duisburg-Essen)

„Between „Cannibals“ and „Natural Freemasons”: The (Anti)Colonial History of Comparing Freemasonry to African Secret Societies“



18:30-19:45                EVENING LECTURE 1

Peter C. Mancall (USC Dornsife): “Edward Topsell’s Virginia Birds: American Nature and Early Modern European Colonization” Chaired by Eleonora Rohland (Bielefeld)


20:15/ 20:30               Conference Dinner 1




Friday, October 12, 2018


09:00-11:00                PANEL 3: Surveying and Establishing Empires in the Americas

                                          Chair: Anna Döneke (Bielefeld)


Marcelo Fabián Figueroa (University of Tucumán)

„To survey, to read, and to compare empires: the Malaspina expedition across colonial Spanish territories (1789-1794)“


Julia Engelschalt (Bielefeld University)

„Tropical Climates, Microbes, and American Empire: Comparative Practices in U.S. Tropical Medicine (1898-1910)“



11:00-11:30                Coffee Break


11:30-12:45                LUNCHTIME KEYNOTE

Demetrius Eudell (Wesleyan University): “The Comparative Method of Göttingen University’s Wissenschaft vom Menschen Chaired by Angelika Epple (Bielefeld)


12:45-14:00                Lunch at ZiF


14:00-17:00                PANEL 4: Media, Literature, and Communication in Germany, India, and the U.S.

                                          Chair: Silke Schwandt (Bielefeld)


Volker Bauer (Herzog-August-Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel)

“Global benchmarks of princely rule in the early 18th century? Transcultural commensurability, comparison and competition within the political series of the German publisher Renger (1704–1718)”


Tina Janssen (University of Warwick)

„The comparative method of Sir William Jones (1746-1794)“


Benno Nietzel (Bielefeld University)

„Comparison, Comparing and Modernization in International Communication Research during the 1950s“


17:00-17:30                Coffee Break



17:30-18:45                EVENING LECTURE 2

Alexander Honold (University of Basel): "Same Sky, Different Soil: Geographical Difference in 18th-century Astronomy and its Impact on Literature" Chaired by Kirsten Kramer


19:30/ 20:00               Conference Dinner 2



Saturday, October 13, 2018


09:00-12:00                PANEL 5: Barbarians and ‘Others’ in China and Mexico – and Methodological Considerations from ‘Underground’

Chair: Luise Fast (Bielefeld)


                                           Eloise Wright (University of California)

                                    „Writings about Civilisation on the Imperial Chinese Periphery, 1250-1700“


                                            Ezekiel Stear (Pasadena City College)

                                            „Entre nos: Comparison and Authority in the Epistolary of Antonio Valeriano“


                                            Sophie Hueglin (Newcastle University)

                                            „From Objects to Processes: petrification and liquification as concepts for cross-culture comparison“


12:00-13:30                Lunch at Westend


13:30-15:30                PANEL 6: The Construction and De-Construction of Race in the U.S. South and at Large

                                           Chair: Julian Gärtner (Bielefeld)


                                          Christian Pinnen (Mississippi College)

                                   „Colonizing Race: How Laws of Bondage Shaped Race in America’s Colonial Borderlands“


                                           Wilfried Raussert (Bielefeld University)

                                    „We Wear the Mask’: Modern ‘Masks’, Reflexivity, and Black Practices of Comparison in the Harlem Renaissance“


15:30-16:00                Coffee Break


16:00-17:00                Conference Summary & Discussion, chaired by Antje Flüchter (Bielefeld)



18:00                          Conference Dinner 3 (self-paid by everyone who wants to join)



Contact Info: 
Dr. Eleonora Rohland
Assistant Professor for Entangled History in the Americas
Department of Iberian and Latin American History
Center for InterAmerican Studies (CIAS)
Faculty of History, Philosophy and Theology
Bielefeld University 

Office X-A3-242
Universitätsstraße 25
33615 Bielefeld
phone : +49 521 106 3251