Magnifying Glass or Telescope - Scales of Knowledge

Heidelberg University’s Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" will host an international conference focused on how scales are selected in pursuing research and the investigative methods used. This year’s annual conference entitled "Scales of Knowledge: Zooming In and Zooming Out" will be held from 7 to 9 October 2015. In some 50 presentations, cultural scientists from a variety of disciplines such as ethnology, geography and intellectual history will explore the role of dimension and perspective in various fields of research.

"When scientists study cultures, we can observe the object of interest by zooming in or zooming out, like with a lens. The spatial, temporal and analytical focal points defined for the research we employ also determine the kinds of methodologies we use," explains William Sax. "There is a difference between researching broad concepts such as ’culture’ or ’the stratosphere’ and focusing single individuals or atoms." At the conference, the Heidelberg anthropologist will discuss how different medical practices such as Ayurveda, Kundalini or psychotherapy travel across cultural boundaries and give rise to hybrid forms of treatment.

In addition to the spatial aspect of scales and perspective, conference participants will also delve into the political, environmental and philosophical dimensions. Heidelberg intellectual historian Joachim Kurtz will discuss the various scales of truth and why a universal truth is often postulated. Using case examples, other presentations will address local and global networks in East Asia, the introduction of new technologies in South Asia and political elections in Central Asia.

Anthropologist George Marcus of the University of California in Irvine (USA) will open the conference. In his keynote lecture entitled "’Scale’ as a Problem of Contemporary Ethnographic Practice", he will explain how technological progress since the 1990s has influenced ethnographic research. In particular, new computer-assisted methods are available that produce ever larger data sets. The conference will open on 7 October at 5:30 pm in the Great Hall of the Old University, Grabengasse 1. The general public is welcome to attend the opening. On October 8th and 9th, conference events will be held at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Transcultural Studies, Voßstraße 2.

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