What do we look for and what are we engaged in? Self-confirmation, culture wars, respectful treatment of our subjects – or “all of the above”? Online lecture by Sonja Brentjes at the Austrian Academy of Sciences

cristina pecchia's picture
May 25, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Islamic History / Studies, Research and Methodology, Asian History / Studies, Intellectual History

The Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia (IKGA) at the  Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, is hosting a series of lectures titled


Method and Region


The aim of this initiative is to reflect on the relationship between method and region. Here, method comprises the entire apparatus that enables us to conduct scholarly studies, including non-European theories and concepts. Region stands for what is contextually specific, such as language, history or thought.

The full program is available at https://www.oeaw.ac.at/ikga/veranstaltungen/event-detail/lecture-series-....

The third lecture in the series will be on Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 17:00–18:30 CEST:


Sonja Brentjes

(Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

What do we look for and what are we engaged in? Self-confirmation, culture wars, respectful treatment of our subjects – or “all of the above”?



My first double question translates the topic of the invitation. The second triple question summarizes important experiences of my academic itinerary and some of my efforts to liberate myself from positions instilled in me in the course of my graduate training and boundaries demarcating research and teaching in my field - the history of science in Islamicate societies. The perhaps most important goal of that period in my academic life that I believe I learned from my esteemed senior colleagues was to prove the scientific capabilities of scholars in Islamicate societies and the importance of their contributions in a universal history of science. The formula that I invented for myself defining my reoriented research goal is encapsulated in the third part of the second question. It is of course derived from discussions and methodological positions in other fields of studies, including the study of Asian societies and cultures. A respectful treatment of our historical subjects and objects presupposes a knowledge of the specific conditions in which they lived, worked, and struggled. Thus, context became a keyword for me. But the individual liberation from established boundaries is not identical with their complete eradication in the field. It rather leads to warps in the academic fabric. These warps get deepened if outsiders of the field start to interfere and to drag the fabric in new, often opposite and politicized directions. History of science in Islamicate societies has been involved since its inception into a series of big and small such culture wars, some of them even with severe political consequences. But most scholars refuse to engage, fight back, and defend academic standards. They prefer to participate on the side of "the dark forces" due to different reasons. Thus, there is no royal way to the right approach and trustworthy methods let alone to a shared agreement what those might be.

This lecture is being organized by the IKGA in cooperation with the Institute of Iranian Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.


The lecture will be held online and is open to the public. To register, please write to office.ikga(at)oeaw.ac.at.


Contact Info: 

Cristina Pecchia

Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia (IKGA)    

Austrian Academy of Sciences (OEAW)