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Isis. 2013 Jun;104(2):337-47.

Beyond postcolonialism ... and postpositivism: circulation and the global history of science.

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  • 1Centre Alexandre Koyré, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 105, Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris, France.


This essay traces the parallel, but unrelated, evolution of two sets of reactions to traditional idealist history of science in a world-historical context. While the scholars who fostered the postcolonial approach, in dealing with modern science in the non-West, espoused an idealist vision, they nevertheless stressed its political and ideological underpinnings and engaged with the question of its putative Western roots. The postidealist history of science developed its own vision with respect to the question of the global spread of modern science, paying little heed to postcolonial debates. It then proposes a historiographical approach developed in large part by historians of South Asian politics, economics, and science that, without compromising the preoccupations of each of the two groups, could help construct a mutually comprehensible and connected framework for the understanding of the global workings of the sciences.

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