Introduction: Displacing Jesuit Science in Qing China


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Article
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Authors
Statman, Alexander 
Cams, Mario 
Abstract

‘East meets West’ or ‘China meets Europe’: such formulations have long been used in titles of books, lectures and exhibitions concerning the Jesuit mission in Ming-Qing China. These are convenient catchphrases, and the historical sentiment they often express – that the Jesuits went beyond the ‘Self’ and engaged in dialogue with the ‘Other’ – retains all its relevance today. But it is also important to be aware of the assumptions that underpin this framework and to reflect on the limitations it represents. Much has been written with the assumption that ‘China’ and ‘Europe’ can be construed as civilizations, mentalities, or cultural traditions that have clear-cut boundaries and definable core features; that they developed in mutual ignorance until the Jesuits brought them into ‘encounter’ or ‘confrontation’; and that the history of that event illustrates the features that China and Europe are assumed to possess. This historiographical approach can be productive, but it can also lead to the essentialization of China and Europe, writing out the inner complexity of both entities and obliterating historical factors that cannot be easily categorized as pertaining to the one or the other. It can also lead to the misconception that ‘China’ and ‘Europe’ are coterminous with ‘East’ and ‘West’, thus obliterating the existence of other civilizations between them. The three articles gathered in this focus of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine constitute a coordinated attempt to address these issues through a deliberate displacement of our narrative foci.

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Journal Title
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
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Journal ISSN
1562-918X
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International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine
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