Nadine Amsler, University of Bern
What Makes a Chinese Man a Man? Early Modern Jesuits' Comparisons between European and Chinese Gender Arrangements
The Sino-Western cultural contact instigated by the Jesuits' mission to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China has received much scholarly attention in the
last decades. However, the majority of studies that have investigated the ways in which the Jesuits tried to relate their Chinese experience with their
European background operated with the framework of synthesis, not comparison. In these studies, synthesis is convincingly portrayed as the outcome of the
Jesuits' accommodation strategy, i.e. the missionaries' attempt to adapt their lifestyle to the Chinese elite's lifestyle and thus become a sort of "Western
literati". Accommodation, however, required an in-depth understanding of Chinese society, and the process of achieving this understanding was intricately
linked with practices of comparison. It is therefore a worthwhile endeavor to investigate how comparison and synthesis relate to each other in the Jesuits'
writings on China.
In this paper I will focus on the ways in which the Jesuits compared Chinese with European gender arrangements, a field where they noticed
major differences between their home countries and their field of evangelization. A first focus of the paper will be on the Jesuits' comparisons between
Chinese and European women. I will show how the missionaries selected, defined and contested units of comparison. In particular, I will discuss how the
Jesuits tackled the methodological problem of social, geographical and racial differences within China. My analysis will point out that the missionaries'
comparisons between European and Chinese women were intricately linked with moral judgement, a fact that greatly influenced their practices of comparison.
The second focus of the paper will be on the Jesuits' comparisons between Chinese and European masculinities. I will show that masculinity was, as an embodied
category, intricately related with the missionaries? own lives. I will discuss how the Jesuits' comparisons between Chinese and European masculinities
influenced their real-life decisions concerning their self-fashioning as "Western literati".
Marya Svetlana Camacho, University of Asia and the Pacific
Bridging the Gap: Spanish Missionaries' Perspectives on Marriage in the Philippines in the Period of Contact
In the description of indigenous society in the Philippine islands contained in the historical writings from the seventeenth century, marriage was a standard
inclusion. The Spanish religious authors invariably treated it as an institution and practice foundational to socio-political relationships. They approached it
as a universal human institution with normative features based on natural law, wholly understanding that they were dealing with non-Christian peoples. In this
context they discussed virtues and vices related to sexuality as a cognate theme, which inexorably connected with Christian marriage. This perspective served
as the platform for their evangelizing efforts, in consonance with the theological principle that grace did not supersede nature but rather required it. As
missionaries, they instinctively evaluated indigenous matrimonial mores according to Catholic canonical marriage with its emphasis on monogamy and
indissolubility, which they intended to introduce albeit gradually. Intertwined with these two perspectives was the inevitable fact of their being Spanish.
As such, they compared the customs governing matrimony – from the courtship stage to the wedding ceremony, and the matter of dowries and conjugal property – with
what they were most familiar with in Spain. Occasionally, they made reference to matrimonial practices in other cultures ancient and modern, and also drew
illustrative examples from European history. Thus the early modern version of ethnographic writing they produced, on marriage in this case, reveals the
convergence of the writers' philosophical and theological grounding provided by their scholastic formation as well as their European cultural roots. Ultimately
they applied to indigenous society and culture the twin standards of civilization cum Christianity. It bears mentioning that their respective, personal
dispositions of inquiry likewise showed through in their works.
This paper examines the work of four Jesuits who wrote in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: Pedro Chirino, Francisco Colin, Francisco
Combés, and Francisco Ignacio Alzina. For comparison, the works of the Franciscans Francisco de Santa Inés in the seventeenth century and Juan
Francisco de San Antonio in the eighteenth are also discussed. Among all these works, Alzina's offers the most detailed description of indigenous
(Specifically, Visayan) matrimonial customs and is the most intensely comparative; it indicates the breadth and depth of his humanistic training as well as
his missionary fervor. His exposition follows the structure of canon law more clearly than the other writers; at the same time, it recognizes legitimate
differences between Spanish/European and Visayan customs. For Alzina, the ethnographic and the pastoral were meant to intersect.
Subhasree Ghosh, University of Calcutta
'Our' Women, 'Their' Women: Marriage and Modernisation in Nineteenth Century Colonial India
Set against the backdrop of nineteenth century colonial India, this paper sets to explore the various ramifications of the nuanced, complex and multi-layered
relationship between the ruler and the ruled within the socio-cultural-legal discourse pivoting on the women's question within the overarching theme of
comparison between the women of the west and the east. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, appropriation of the geographical space of the Indians by the
English East Indian Company was more or less complete. Placed on a surer footing, the British now looked upon to appropriate the physical space of the Indians
in the sense that it wanted to colonize the body of the Indians, more precisely Indian women. In doing so, they attempted to dictate the social space of the
From the perspective of colonial gaze, colonial rule essentially meant the 'rule of difference' manifested in the 'grammar of difference' between the colony
and the metropole. Comparison remained the underlying refrain. The British identified themselves as civilised and modern and decisively set apart the
non-European world as the 'other'. This distinction was forged through 'mutual constitution': making self, making others. To describe oneself as 'enlightened'
implied that someone else had to be shown as 'savage'. As the British endeavoured to define themselves as 'British' and thus as 'not Indian', they had to make
of Indian whatever they chose not to make of themselves. Nicholas Hoover Wilson calls this the 'refraction model' whereby the foundation of the administration
is pivoted on the interpretation of the "colonial society in terms of conceptualizations of their subjects' similarity or difference". This process had as its
outcome, an array of polarities that shaped much of the ideology of the Raj during the first half of the nineteenth century, where at one end of the spectrum
was the 'çivilised' British and on the other hand the Indians plagued by 'general corruption of manners and sunk in misery'. In between were the white settler
colonies that under British tutelage would eventually be in a position to self-govern themselves. India, however, faltered at the bedrock of such expectations.
As Charles Dilke argued that while self-government could be granted to the white settlement colonies, India would need the permanent paternal guidance of
Under the overarching theme of comparison between the east and the west, where the binary of the self and the other was liberally employed, the focus of
the paper would be on women – of the east and the west – since the debate pitted 'our' women against 'theirs', to formulate the notion of an
'ideal woman'. The paper would highlight the tussle between the two with the British administration trying to remodel and reshape social lives of the Indians
by outlawing certain customs, considered anathema to the British psyche, and the indigenous population vehemently opposing the same. Culling information from
a wide array of sources, namely, archival documents like official papers, literary works of both the British and the Indians, contemporary medical reports,
ethnographic, physiological and anthropometric works, the paper would attempt to bring to the fore how the notion of being 'modern' was being fiercely debated.
James Mill, in his seminal work The History of British India, opines, "The condition of women is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the
manners of nations. Among rude people, the women are generally degraded, among civilised people, they are exalted". By this measure, not surprisingly India
lagged far behind Britain. India's women were not 'ennobled' by their men but instead 'degraded' – "India is unhappily an example to prove how manifold
are the ramifications of evil spreading out of a demoralised and degraded state of domestic relations. Bigamy, polygamy, adultery, prostitution, abortion,
infanticide, incest, fraud, robbery, violence, and all kinds of murder are the melancholy results...for the proper regulation of domestic society in India,
remarriage of widows must be allowed, marriage of infants must be abolished, females must be educated, and restraints must be placed on marriage..." Thus
while the administrators charted out the roadmap of modernisation and amelioration of the plight of Indian women that would eventually convert them into
'ideal' 'modern' women, Indians, like Bhudev Mukhopadhyay felt that modernisation along western lines would rob them of chastity and modesty – the
hallmarks of Indian women, "In a society (ostensibly referring to the British society) where men and women meet together, converse together, eat and drink
together, travel together, the manners of women are likely to be somewhat coarse, devoid of spiritual qualities and relatively prominent in animal traits".
Autobiographical accounts of Indian women often echo such sentiments where femininity equals foregoing the British-prescribed reforms that would distance them
from being virtuous Indian women. As Kundamala Debi points out, "If you have acquired real knowledge, then give no place in your heart to memsahib-like
In this context, the specific issue that would be taken up is child-marriage?an age-old ritual in India prescribed by the sacred texts – and the
consequent premature cohabitation that often led to excessive bleeding and death of the child-wife. The administration was keen to increase the age of
marriage as also legally fix the age in which a girl would be deemed fit to enter into sexual relationships, since to the British, the yardsticks of being
'modern' was tethered to freedom from child-marriage as also choosing one's partner. With the age of consent in Britain being raised to 16 by the Criminal
Law Amendment Act, 1885, the colonial masters wanted to replicate the same in India. Understandably, such thinking clashed with Indian sensibilities and
attempts at reforms raised a furor within the Indian society since to the Indians, home and women were co-terminous and the private space was to be fiercely
guarded from the colonial gaze. Comparison, thus, played a seminal role in the arguments and counter-arguments traded throughout the century within the rubric
of modernisation and the paper would bring out the various dynamics embedded in this discourse.
Sara Mehlmer, Leibniz Institute for European History Mainz
Spain and its North African 'Other' in the 19th Century. Ambivalent Practices of Comparing
On 22 October 1859 Spain declared war to Morocco. This war, although of short duration and doubtful profit for triumphant Spain¹, is seen as the beginning of
Spain's colonial expansion in the north of Morocco in the 19th and 20th centuries. The war not only evoked a wave of national enthusiasm among all political
parties and social classes in Spain², but an increasing interest in the region. The travel journalist Pedro Antonio de Alarcón explained his decision to
take part in the military campaign as follows:
Many years ago [...], the wish to travel the empire of Morocco first moved my heart. – Born in Sierra-Nevada, from whose tops one may identify the beaches
where the morisma sleeps its historical death; son of a town marked by the influence of the Arabic domination [...], I had passed my childhood in the ruins of
mosques and citadels [...]; naturally [...], I felt requested by the proximity of Africa, and yearned to cross the Mediterranean to touch [...] the lively reality
of the past.³
Alarcón was one of various Spaniards who, in the nineteenth century, traveled throughout Morocco and wrote to their readers at home about the country's
geographic, cultural and religious particularities. In these reports, characteristic practices of comparing stand out: On the one hand, the common image of the
'uncivilized' and 'barbary' people is used, probably to assure one's own superiority and the legitimacy of colonial projects and military campaigns⁴. On the
other hand, there are frequent references to a special affinity between Spaniards and moors, owing to their shared history. The memory of Spain's Moorish past,
as the initial quotation demonstrates, was still present – not only in architecture, but also in language, music, folk tales and festival traditions.
In sum, the Moorish heritage still constituted an important part of Spanish culture and identity⁵. Spanish descriptions of the Moroccan 'other', more than
those of other Europeans, therefore oscillated between strangeness and familiarity, between refusal and recognition of similarities.
In my lecture, I want to reveal Spain's specific way of dealing with its North African 'other', who, at the same time, constituted a part of the 'self', on the
basis of Spanish travel accounts, military reports and periodicals that appeared around the first "African War" (1859-1860).
My dissertation project "Between brothers and archenemies. Christian and Muslim border crossings in and around Spanish-Northern Africa (ca 1851-1869)" deals with
different forms of identity making and identity change occurring around Ceuta and Melilla in the second half of the 19th century. By dealing with the sources, I not
only discerned the ambiguity and (contextual) relativity of identity markers, but I also became aware of Spain's ambivalent relationship towards North African
culture, to which I would like to draw attention in the context of this conference.
¹ The so called "African War" was later described as "big war of the small peace" ("guerra grande de la paz chica"); cf., among others, Eloy Martín
Corrales (2002), La imagen del magrebí en España. Una perspectiva histórica, siglos XVI-XX, p. 54.
² Cf. José Álvarez Junco (1997), El nacionalismo español como mito movilizador. Cuatro guerras, in: Rafael Cruz y Manuel Pérez
Ledesma (Hg.), Cultura y movilización en la España contemporánea, p. 35-67.
³ Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1859), Diario de un testigo de la guerra de África, p. III.
⁴ Cf. Edward Said (1978), Orientalism.
⁵ Cf. Susan Martin-Márquez (2008), Disorientations. Spanish Colonialism in Africa and the Performance of Identity.
Stephanie Zehnle, University of Duisburg-Essen
Between "Cannibals" and "Natural Freemasons": The (Anti-)Colonial History of Comparing Freemasonry to African Secret Societies
It can be called a paradox or even a coincidence of history that modern European and American colonialism led to first contacts, contests and confrontations
between secret societies of extremely different cultural background: In various African, Indian and South American colonies, the globalizing British-Masonic secret
society lodges met local and indigenous secret societies. And while the curious members discovered and interpreted each other, modes of comparison were developed
that went beyond mere terminology: Which societies were legal or criminal? How should a colonial state or Christian institution deal with arcane communities?
Can persons be initiated into both Freemasonry and a local society?
For West African Krio intellectuals, this initial position was instrumentalized in order to attack colonialist ideas claiming that black Africans and
colonizers could never be equal in terms of cultures and mental capacities. By 1900, many black Sierra Leonians provoked the British colonial government by
comparing the indigenous Poro secret society to Freemasons in order to demand equal rights for members of each group. This was even more controversial as
British colonial staff generally formed the elites of the colonial Masonic lodges. At a Christian Sunday School the young Mabel Hagan thus explained in 1902:
There seems to be no reason why the Porroh and Bondo should be denounced as heathenish and devilish while Freemasonry and other European secret societies are not
only tolerated, but highly respected and recognised. Why should Christian teachers insist upon the abandonment and renunciation of the Native societies as one of
the conditions of admission into the Church, while Freemasons are readily received even into the Christian Ministry?
The presence of British Freemasons in Sierra Leone and black Freemasons from the United States across the border in Liberia, further complicated such debates.
Assuming that both Freemasonry and the Poro societies stemmed from ancient Egypt, even white Masons admitted historical and ritualistic connections between both.
Moreover, anthropologists and social scientists like Georg Simmel confirmed such theories with their systematic comparisons of structures and practices of secret
societies across past and present cultures. Whereas the colonial states increasingly criminalized and demonized so-called "Native Secret Societies" by judging
them as ritual murderers and cannibals in colonial court cases, more progressive thinkers, missionaries and politicians of all ethnic groups subsequently
romanticized and rehabilitated these societies. Several black American and European missionaries as well as anthropologists challenged the colonial order by
being initiated into the Poro. The proposed paper will highlight such 'colonial scandals' from West Africa and revisit the history of comparing secret societies
in global anthropological discourses from ca. 1800 to 1950. It will be explained why such comparative perspectives were intercultural and ethnocentric, colonialist
and emancipatory at the same time.
¹ Anonymous: Native Customs versus the Christian Religion, in: Sierra Leone Weekly News, 24.5.1902, pp. 2-3.
Marcelo Fabián Figueroa, University of Tucumán
To Survey, to Read, and to Compare Empires: the Malaspina Expedition Across Colonial Spanish Territories (1789-1794)
The expedition commanded by Alejandro Malaspina was an "imperial inspection" which surveyed the Spanish overseas possessions in the Americas; collected documents
and maps in the enclaves they visited; interviewed the inhabitants of the explored territories – whether or not they were associated to colonial bureaucracy
–; and wrote reports about the political and economical conditions of these territories with the intention of promoting them as well as the metropolis.
This paper focuses on the relationship between writing travel reports and practices of comparing in the expedition commanded by Alejandro Malaspina. Especially,
it studies the intersection of the practices of surveying Spanish colonial areas and reading books concerning other European colonial lands in order to find cross
comparisons which nurtured Malaspina's travel reports. Then, how did the practice of comparing emerge in Malaspina's travel reports?
The documentary corpus upon which this paper is based is made up of written travel reports by Alejandro Malaspina on four Spanish viceroyalties. The paper
supports two arguments: the practice of comparing emerges in Malaspina's travel reports in relation to Spanish colonial areas as well as foreign colonial lands;
in all cases comparisons were related to surveying the first ones on ground and reading the second ones on books. Consequently, to survey, to read, and to compare
empires were three practices which influenced Malaspina's writing process oriented to the making of a diagnosis on Spanish colonial conglomerate.
Julia Engelschalt, Bielefeld University
Tropical Climates, Microbes, and American Empire: Comparative Practices in U.S. Tropical Medicine (1898-1910)
In recent years, historians of science and medicine have increasingly turned their attention towards the role of scientific and medical knowledge in the formation
of empire and vice versa. In this context, the Spanish-American War of 1898 – a "splendid little war", in contemporaneous terms – has come under
intense scrutiny because it was one of the first armed conflicts in which the insights of laboratory bacteriology, most notably the germ theory of disease,
was put to practical application. At the same time, scholars agree that earlier, environmentally oriented notions of disease causation were not immediately
discarded. Rather, medical researchers and practitioners constantly negotiated between the two competing bodies of knowledge. That notwithstanding, while the
historiography of tropical medicine has thus far been closely linked to the major colonial powers of Europe, the development of American tropical medicine in the
early years of U.S. empire has received considerably less attention. Similarly, it seems that the connection between discourses on climatic zones and their
perceived impact on civilizational development on the one hand, and discourses on disease and health on the other has not yet been fully explored in the existing
My dissertation project revolves around the early years of U.S.-American colonialism and the ways in which American military and civilian medical scholars and
practitioners entered the debate over environmental and climatic factors, epidemic disease, and military as well as public health on the newly acquired margins of
U.S. empire. More specifically, I am interested in the role which discursive practices of comparing – between different climatic zones, between
epidemiological phenomena in different colonies (the Philippines, Cuba, and Panama), and between colonial periphery and metropolis – played in the experience
of medical agents of empire. In my contribution to this conference, I would first like to give a brief outline of my dissertation project before presenting my
initial findings on the climate-health nexus in the writings of selected medical researchers and theorists. This nexus is constantly reproduced, as I hope to show,
through spatially and temporally coded comparisons which establish a multifaceted relationship between the U.S. mainland and its newly acquired colonies.
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)
1) Common ground: Political bridges over cultural divides
From 1704 to 1718 the German publishing house Renger issued a series of 80 volumes each describing one political entity of the known world. The core consists of 41
books on European and 15 books on non-European states, comprising examples from Asia, Africa and America. This serial publication is arguably the most comprehensive
work on political regimes on a global scale in early modern Germany and offers ample opportunity for a systematic study of the levels, practices and limits of
transcultural comparison between systems of rule in that period.
: The Renger series provide an excellent source to examine the ways in which the states of the world
are perceived, compared and evaluated. Firstly, the volumes were all published anonymously in a standardised format deploying a common set of criteria and treating
the same aspects for each case. This gives a certain constistency to the implicit and explicit comparisons being made. Secondly, the series proceeds from the notion
of hereditary monarchical rule as the standard form of government. This leads the publications to the consideration of certain structural problems shared by all
princely states (e.g. access to the ruler and succession) and to the emergence of similar institutional solutions (courts, dynasties). The works thus provide
sufficient basis for comparisons on a general level. Thirdly, the Renger series offers two models of inter-state entanglement at the same time, a society of princes
founded on rank and an international system founded on the trans-personal interests of the state. Both notions involve an inherent competitiveness and are applied
on a global plane. To sum up, European and non-European states are largely analysed on equal terms.
2) Drawing Distinctions: Europe as an exception to the rule of despotism?
Although hereditary monarchy ensures the overall compatibility and commensurability
of global regimes, the Renger series marks a fundamental difference between the political culture of Europe and that of other continents. While the former is
characterised by constitutional diversity and limited monarchies, the latter is largely determined by 'oriental despotism'. This distinction, however, is secondary
to the basic similarity of any monarchical rule. This similarity actually provides the initial basis for a comparison, whereas the end result of this process of
comparing is the distinction between European and 'oriental' regimes. A specific political language is employed in this context that uses designations of rule like
"sovereign", "monarchical", "absolute", "despotic" and "tyrannical" as a means of differentiation, comparison, evaluation and othering.
3) Negotiating difference: Levels, criteria and limits of comparison
: Throughout the Renger series there are constant comparisons between and references to
the states. Among them those cases in which European and non-European power structures are explicitly and directly compared to each other (e.g. Morocco in respect
to France) are of special significance. Quantitative data regarding state revenue and military manpower are presented as a clear invitation to comparison (cf. the
tax yield of single Asian states given in European currency). The bulk of transcultural comparison is informed by two general, actually contradictory frameworks:
For besides the mentioned construction of Europe as a distinct political region in contrast to the despotic rest of the world there is an alternative conception
which deliberately counter-balances any pro-European bias. It does so by drawing a differing distinction between barbarians on the one and all countries based on
"police, laws, order and godliness" on the other hand. Since nearly all states considered belong to the second category, regardless of their continental location,
this enhances global commensurability. Thus it is exactly the plurality of contradictory and complementary approaches by which the series lays bare the potential,
scope, limits and practices of the comparison of princely rule across transcultural boundaries within early 18th-century Germany.
: Due to its level of standardisation and uniformity the Renger series provides a kind of level ground which allows for comparisons between
princely regimes of different cultural backgrounds. The pertinent volumes are of course not free from Eurocentric stereotyping and labelling strategies, but
following Osterhammel this Eurocentrism might be termed "inclusive" rather than "exclusive" (or even simply "heuristic"). The books' amazing esteem for the
countries on other continents – especially for China and Persia – is caused by the fact that their political structures are described as largely
identical with the European ones. They can all be seen as hereditary monarchies with the requisite court and dynasty. And they were obviously taken seriously as
political contenders for power. The differences could, and in fact did, become apparent, only because they were accepted as almost equal competitors. And on top of
it, this even happened in a commercial, vernacular, cheap and popular series of printed books.
Tina Janssen, University of Warwick
The Comparative Method of Sir William Jones (1746-1794)
An important part of Sir William Jones's works consists of translations from oriental languages. As a judge in India (from 1784), his work on Sanskrit, which
culminated in the posthumously published translation of the law digest The Ordinances of Menu (Calcutta, 1794), was in service of the project
started by Warren Hastings (Governor, and later Governor-General, in India from 1772 to 1784) to judge all Indian people by their native laws, whether Muslim or
Hindu, instead of English law. As a byproduct, this study of Sanskrit lead to one of the first translations of a piece of Sanskrit literature
into a European language; Sacontalá; or, The Fatal Ring: an Indian Drama by Cálidás (Calcutta, 1789) was to become Jones's most famous, and,
arguably, most influential translation, itself getting translated into twelve languages within a century of its publication and inspiring for example Goethe's
conceptions of Weltliteratur.
We see Jones's comparative method at work in his introduction, in which he frames Cálidás as 'the Indian Shakespeare'², an epithet that would stick
through time. Jones adds this explanatory title because he believes the drama at hand, and possibly the other works by the Indian playwright, to be of
similar quality as those by the famous English bard. Moreover, presenting his readers with this comparison will help them understand the text before them and will
persuade them of its merits. That this comparison had its effects can be seen for example in the review published in The Bee on March 23th, 1791, in which the
equality and connection between the European and Indian people are clearly recognised through Jones's translation efforts:
Blessed then are those who by painful researches, tend to remove those destructive veils which have so long concealed mankind from each other, and occasioned
this destructive estrangement; who by discovering the human heart, without disguise, naked as it came out of the hands of the creator, enable
all nations, languages, and people, to recognise each other as relations, and induce them to embrace each other as kindred.²
The case of Sacontalá is not the only place in which Jones shows this predilection for equating eastern and western literature. His translations of eastern
literature, and especially poetry, are aimed at changing European literature from the eighteenth century onwards, by making his contemporaries aware of the
rejuvenating influence oriental literature could have. He expresses this most literally in his 'Essay on the Poetry of the Eastern Nations', appended to his Poems,
consisting chiefly of Translations from the Asiatic Languages (Oxford, 1772):
I must once more request, that, in bestowing these praises on the writings of Asia, I may not be thought to derogate from the merit of the Greek and Latin
poems, which have justly been admired in every age; yet I cannot but think that our European poetry has subsisted too long on the perpetual repetition of the
same images, and incessant allusions to the same fables; and it has been my endeavour, for several years, to inculcate this truth, That, if the principal writings
of the Asiatics, which are reposited in our public libraries, were printed, with the usual advantages of notes and illustrations, and if the languages of
the Eastern nations were studied in our places of education, where every other branche of useful knowledge is taught to perfection, a new and ample field would be
opened for speculation; we should be furnished with a new set of images and similitudes, and a number of excellent compositions would be brought to light,
which future scholars might explain, and future poets might imitate.³
My research focuses on the contemporary reactions to and reception of Jones's work, answering the question to what extent his project of getting his
contemporaries, both academics and laymen, to not only understand, but also appreciate and use oriental literature, succeeded. I therefore argue that
Jones's comparative method did not so much aim at showing the otherness, and much less any inferiority, of the oriental literature as much as promoting its merits
because of its similarities to European (classical) literature by being of equal beauty and quality. European literature could be elevated by the fresh impulses of
these newly uncovered classics.
¹ W. Jones, Sacontala; or, the Fatal Ring: an Indian Drama, by Calidas. Translated from the original Sanscrit and Pracrit. (Edinburgh: J. Mundell & Co.,
1796), fifth page of unnumbered Preface.
² Bee, 23/03/1791, p. 111.
³ W. Jones, Poems, consisting chiefly of Translations from the Asiatic Languages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1772), p. 198-199.
Benno Nietzel, Bielefeld University
Comparison, Comparing, and Modernization in International Communication Research During the 1950s
My proposal emerges from a larger research project on the interrelations between political propaganda and communication research in the United States in the 20th
century. After the massive propaganda battles of World War II, in which numerous social scientists and media experts took part, the US administration was contending
the issue of dismantling or maintaining the propaganda apparatus that had been built up since 1941 to foster the war effort, undermine the enemy's morale and to
explain America's mission to the occupied people of Europe. In the face of the emerging Cold War, American policy makers decided that for the first time in history,
the United States should develop an international information program even in times of peace. Competing with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of a global
public, the United States began to send their message to the world.¹
In many respects, this turned out to be a step into the unknown. In order to tell the world about their ideals and values, American propagandists had to learn
about the world first. Thriving on massive government funding, new disciplines emerged that were supposed to produce policy-relevant knowledge, among them area
studies and Soviet studies. One of the developing fields of applied and policy-related research was particularly concerned with problems of international radio
communication. In 1950, the US State Department commissioned a large research project with the Bureau of Applied Social Research (BASR) at Columbia University,
designed to shed light on the potential audience of the "Voice of America" in the countries of the Middle East. Drawing on interviews and survey data, the BASR
research team not only charted the Middle Eastern media publics, but also attempted at broadening the existing knowledge on how the mass media exert influence on
society and people.
The "International Radio Project" calls for a comparison-as-practice approach at two levels of analysis: First, this research was explicitly comparative:
Paul Lazarsfeld, director of the BASR and the leading figure in US communication research of the 1940s, outlined a research program on the comparative study of
national communication systems.² Following a classical modernization theory approach, this comparison located media systems in a continuum that ranged from
modern media societies of the West to traditional, undeveloped societies in which people had little access to the mass media and where oral communication was still
dominant. As the researchers believed in universal laws of media communication, they measured foreign communication systems against the well-known US model and
described as to how much headway these transitional countries had made on their pre-fixed path to modernity. The comparison used categories like "opinion leaders"
and "two-step-flow of communication", developed by communication researchers in a US context and widely seen as universally applicable to any given other case.
I will discuss how in the course of international communication research, these assumptions became increasingly irritated and how this affected the way differences
in communication behavior and systems were perceived and debated.
International communication research was not only comparative, but also, second, carried with it and led to a theory of modernization that was centered around
media consumption as a practice of comparing. In a follow-up project to the international radio project, Daniel Lerner, one of the most prominent experts on
Psychological Warfare during World War II, re-analyzed the collected data in order to determine the psychological and social conditions of modernization.³
Lerner saw 'empathy' as an essential requisite for 'becoming modern', i.e. the ability to compare one's own situation with remote and/or imaginary situations, to
compare one's own life to the lives of others. The modern mass media were pivotal to all modernization processes as they alone could bring people into contact with
other parts of the world. For modernization theorists like Lerner, the United States and the Western world obviously represented the benchmark that other people
wanted to reach since the moment they became exposed to them. My contribution discusses how these underlying assumptions about comparing as a practice and result
of media consumption affected the emerging discourse on "development communication" and how it influenced the micro-practices of communication projects in the
field of US development cooperation in the 1950s.
¹ Walter L. Hixson: Parting the Curtain. Propaganda, Culture and the Cold War 1945-1961, New York 1997; Nicholas J. Cull: The Cold War and the United
States Information Agency. American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy 1945-1989, Cambridge 2008; Laura Belmonte: Selling the American Way. U.S. Propaganda and the
Cold War, Philadelphia 2008.
² Paul Lazarsfeld/Charles Y. Glock: The Comparative Study of Communication Systems, not dated, Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, BASR,
³ Daniel Lerner: The Passing of Traditional Society. Modernizing the Middle East, New York 1958.
Eloise Wright, UC, Berkeley
Writings About Civilisation on the Imperial Chinese Periphery, 1250-1700
In 1253, the Mongol prince who would rule Asia as Qubilai Qan invaded Dali, a small kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas. Over the next 200 years, the Dali
Kingdom was reconceived as Yunnan province, on the far southwest periphery of the Mongol Yuan and Chinese Ming empires. By the end of the Ming, in 1675, Yunnan had
been thoroughly incorporated into the political and economic life of Chinese empire. Military colonists had settled in Yunnan and joined the noble families of the
Dali kingdom in forming a new provincial elite; by educating their sons in the Chinese classics, taking the civil service examinations, and serving as imperial
officials these families had begun to join the gentry class.
At the same time, however, Yunnan, like other peripheries, was constructed by writers in the Chinese tradition as an exotic region characterised by a miasmic
tropical climate and inhabitants with curious, uncivilised customs. Many writers about Yunnan, both locals and officials from elsewhere in the empire, included
typological descriptions of peoples living there. Like those produced by agents of European empires, they were frequently focussed on appearance, dress, and
(especially sexual) customs; moreover, these typologies often looked back to models from antiquity, such as the 'southwestern barbarians' chapter of Record of the
Grand Historian, the first official dynastic history, or the medieval Book of the Barbarians. In these works, categories of exotic peoples increasingly
proliferated, arranged along a spectrum according to how much they were perceived to vary from the norms of civilised Confucian morality. As a result,
descriptions of certain groups were as likely to centre on similarities of their customs to those of the Han Chinese as on their differences. For some people
within these groups, the general acceptance of these perceived similarities was a resource that could be leveraged into access to political and economic power
through membership of the governing scholar-gentry class.
This paper considers the ways that the participation of local Yunnan people in the production of texts in which they were themselves objects of the imperial
gaze transformed both the texts and the people involved. Using gazetteers (difang zhi, also translated 'local histories') produced from 1300 to 1644, I
trace the development of the two 'master categories' used to typify Yunnan's people during this period: cuan and bo. I argue that while cuan began as the
name of a ruling family, it soon shifted to refer to the people it had ruled and then became a general term for the more ungovernable of Yunnan's residents. Bo,
on the other hand, became used generally for people considered to be similar to Han, but was also identified with an unrelated (but then homophonous) indigenous
group, the Bai people of Dali city. This transformation enabled men of that group to join the scholar-gentry and become, themselves, writers of comparative
texts and arbiters of civilisation.
Ezekiel Stear, Pasadena City College
Entre nos: Comparison and Authority in the Epistolary of Antonio Valeriano
How did indigenous public figures of noble ancestry use comparison as a means to defend their authority and negotiate their influence in colonial Mexico City?
The letters of the Nahua intellectual Antonio Valeriano shed light on his role in negotiations in areas ranging from politics and economics to education and
religion during the second half of the sixteenth century. As a young man, Valeriano excelled at the Franciscan-founded center of advanced study for indigenous
students, the Colegio de la Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco. There, Valeriano became a trilingual scholar of Latin, Nahuatl, and Spanish as well as the top native
collaborator in Bernardino de Sahagún's renowned project of ethnographic investigation, known as the Florentine Codex (1578). After Valeriano's study
at the college, he went on to a career in politics as governor of the native residents of Mexico-Tenochtitlan (1573-1599). Throughout his varied public career,
Valeriano served in mediatorial roles for multiple communities. As governor, he influenced key negotiations between native nobles and the Spanish colonial
administrators. As a scholar, he provided academic and linguistic assistance to clergy. As an inheritor of the Tepanac political legacy, Valeriano's leadership
also helped maintain cooperation among various native communities under unprecedented colonial circumstances.
Two of Antonio Valeriano's surviving letters, which he wrote to Phillip II, communicate his concerns for the quality of life of native communities in the
Valley of Mexico. In a letter from 1561 he wrote in Latin and presented to Phillip II petitions on behalf of the native rulers of Azcapotzalco. These indigenous
leaders are representative of the various enclaves who, in the aftermath of the conquest, made policy decisions that continue to shape Mexico today. Again in
1578 Valeriano wrote Phillip II: this time, in Spanish, he sent the king a letter of thanks for a recent envoy of Nahuatl-speaking priests to the capital.
Valeriano's gesture of gratitude for clerical linguistic competence belies an affirmation of the native vernacular as the lingua franca of the region, a subtle yet
vital and enduring aspect of his influence.
In this paper, I argue that Antonio Valeriano's comparisons coalesce in his epistolary as a main rhetorical strategy, which he uses to establish his discursive
authority (autoritas). He presents his others – which include figures from indigenous antiquity, Catholic clergy, unruly Spanish soldiers, and his unconverted
native contemporaries – as counterpoints in a sustained argument in favor of his merit. By highlighting what he considers the achievements and
shortcomings of his others, Valeriano situates his own position and that of his native colleagues as qualified to share power with Phillip II. His comparisons
circumscribe his community of Nahua humanists, and at the same time allow the native governor to construct a discursive field, an "entre nos", which includes the
Spanish Emperor. Close readings of the two letters reveal how Antonio Valeriano articulated the adaptation of European cultural forms as a component to
advancing the goals he envisioned for the natives in the region. Nahuas would accommodate European religion, economics, and political organization. However,
Valeriano's letters aver that cultural accommodations would come not as unilateral impositions, nor through unintentional syncretic mixtures. Rather, Antonio
Valeriano's epistolary represents cultural adaptation as the result of conscious deliberations on indigenous terms.
Sophie Hueglin, Newcastle University
From Objects to Processes: Petrification and Liquification as Concepts for Cross-Culture Comparison
While historians take the "material turn", archaeologists struggle to free themselves from an all too materialistic approach, because it hides from them anything
immaterial. It also hinders them to compare changing cultural landscapes across wider spaces and times: as the context in each case is different the same process
will lead to completely different products. Therefore, a solution would be not to study so much results and objects, but the powers and processes behind.
Like biologists, archaeologists have created classifications – called typologies – of artefacts and monuments and have produced distribution charts
fixing mobile artefacts and three-dimensional monuments on two-dimensional maps and books (Taylor 2015). Unintentional, the method shaped the result: artefacts were
classified as certain types in a certain – mostly progressive – order and materials became to characterize whole periods, like the Stone Age or the Iron
Age (Stabrey 2017).
A new generation of archaeologists has come together to compare processes across periods and landscapes (Hueglin et al. forthcoming). Their first focus is
petrification: any process that will lead to anything becoming harder, heavier, more frequent, more regular, predictable, longer lasting, stable, if not eternal.
That is to look in Ancient Egypt with Aleida and Jan Assmann (1991) for the relation between material (wood - stone) and meaning (life/ephemeral - death/eternity),
but also at the architectural, dietary and social transformations in the context with agriculture, farming and sedentariness (Bradley 2012). Again in the early
middle ages, there is a change from wood to stone in sacred architecture. A change, which is neither limited to Europe nor to the introduction of Christianity.
These waves of petrification tend to be accompanied by other material and social forms of petrification like the introduction of ceramics, food preservation
techniques, memotechnologies, monumentilisation of architecture, formation of kingdoms and increasing social hierarchisation. Petrification is only one dimension of
transformation as Zygmunt Baumann (2000) has shown in "Liquid Modernity". Liquification – to invent a term for the opposite concept – seems to prevail
today. While Baumann states that "change is the only permanence and uncertainty the only certainty" and we observe how plastic replaces glass and ceramics in our
daily life. But this phenomenon is by no means limited to modernity and – as we have seen above – it might also be a matter of de-petrifying our
methodological approach to be able to look in between gridlocked categories.
Christian Pinnen, Mississippi College
Colonizing Race: How Laws of Bondage Shaped Race in America's Colonial Borderlands
As American and Spanish diplomats were hashing out the last details of the transference of the colonial Natchez District under Pinckney's Treaty (Treaty of San
Lorenzo) in October of 1795, residents in the district were blissfully unaware of the proceedings. Over the last two decades, enslaved Africans, English and Spanish
enslavers, and Native Americans had been negotiating definitions of slavery and race in the region that was already famous for its fertile soil and which bore
immense promise for the expansion of the cotton production already underway in the region. The area had changed hands fairly recently from the English to the
Spanish in 1779. Race and slavery were the corner stone of development for imperial forces that sought to exploit the region's agricultural wealth through the
labor of enslaved Africans. Yet these moments of transition were never even, smooth, or complete. Though legal codes changed, inhabitants in Natchez of all races
engaged the courts to settle definitions of race and slavery and the subsequent disputes about labor and social belonging. In turn, these legal skirmishes
influenced models of conquest and colonization.
This paper will highlight the different legal machinations that drove definitions of race and slavery in British, Spanish, and American courts. In turn,
closely reading the legal proceedings allows me to contrast the competing workings of each court system and how they a) affected the enslaved and b) how the
enslaved were able to influence jurisprudence as they engaged their masters in pitted court battles. Between 1779 and 1798, many enslaved and free people of
African descend sought to utilize the liminal periods of imperial change, and in those liminal moments we can dissect the inner workings of legal systems that
tried in vain to dishumanize people to turn them into profitable workers.
Wilfried Raussert, Bielefeld University
We Wear the 'Mask': Modern 'Masks', Reflexivity, and Black Practices of Comparison in the Harlem Renaissance
For the black subject in the Harlem Renaissance (and in the Americas at large) practices of comparison were first of all a way of ordering one's own position, one's
own place in society and cultural practice. These practices frequently included references of the self to the dominant structure, the canon, the established art
world, the successful music industry. They served as tools for self-positioning, self-reflection, and in a further step for self-empowerment. In modernity
established as a concept to reflect the relation of the self to the social, reflexivity has gained new prominence in the contexts of contemporary postcolonial and
decolonial approaches to social relations. Recent postcolonial and decolonial thinkers oppose the Western and Eurocentric conceptualization of the rational self and
a Western centered definition of social experience. In theories like Mouzelis's apophatic reflexivity (2010), attention is given to the emotional, spiritual and
therapeutic side of self-reflexivity. This paper looks at the emergence of the metaphorical concept of the 'New Negro' at the beginning of the twentieth century
and analyzes African American and Afro Caribbean poetic, aesthetic and political practices of comparison in the context of reflexivity. In particular the paper
looks at poetic works by Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and murals by Aaron Douglas. Reflectivity involved a continuous comparing of the self with the floating
metaphors of 'The Old Negro' and 'The New Negro', and with the social at large which meant white hegemony, censorship, and selection. The act of writing and the act
of comparing took place from a peripheral or with nod to Spivak "subaltern" positioning. In spite of the optimistic spirit of renewal during the Harlem Renaissance,
black writers had to manage the colonial baggage of anxiety, dispossession, displacement, and anger in their acts of writing, performing and painting 'The New
Negro' and thus mediating notions of blackness. This varied spectrum of emotional complexity shaped the reflectivity as well as the act of comparison as an
expression of power relations and beyond a pure cognitive understanding.