Questioning Modernity 質問現代性

Critical Engagement with Western Knowledge in Late Imperial and Republican China 晚期中華帝國與民國時期針對西學的批判性交涉

November 22 to 24, 2013


Conference Theme

Over the past 20 years, the development of modern knowledge in China has been a focus of much research. Core topics of debate have included whether the late Ming-early Qing period already contained indigenous elements of modern science; that is, the relative weight and importance of internal traditions and their dynamic developments vis-à-vis external, mostly Western factors. Many projects have focused on the reception of Western academic and scientific terms, and identifying sources, avenues and processes of the reception and refraction of Western knowledge in its interaction with indigenous knowledge systems. An aspect of modern knowledge in China, however, that has not been researched sufficiently so far is the range of critical engagement with modern knowledge and its underlying worldviews and values. “Critical engagement” here refers to comprehending and evaluating modern knowledge through processes that are simultaneously located within modern knowledge systems (as is inevitable) and yet located at positions that offer a certain, “critical” distance, allowing for new and possibly creative perspectives.  Critical engagement thus not only refers to conservative reactions against modernity or aspects of modernity, but also to engagements with modern Western concepts that challenge certain core elements of modernity without rejecting change altogether.


Conference Program