East Asian Uses of the European Past: Gallery Talk and Conference in London



By Gemma Duke

Posted: 29 March, 2019

British Museum Englightenment Gallery

Jonathan Chappell, HERA-funded research officer on the Uses of the Past Project East Asian Uses of the European Past, conducted a talk at the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery on 2nd March 2019. ‘Rethinking “Enlightenment”: Collectors and Imperial Knowledge Production’ drew on the Project’s HERA research to rethink the gallery’s narrative that the Enlightenment was a time when European explorers and collectors set out to discover the world and use reason to define and classify new forms of objects. The tour suggested that the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ could not be separated from a European ‘Age of Imperialism’ and that knowledge production was imbricated within European imperial projects. This hugely successful talk was attended by 45 members of the public, including the Museum Trustee and Director of the London School of Economics, Minouche Shafik.

On 1st April, a public conference will showcase HERA project research on East Asian Uses of the European Past. It will be held at the British Library, with a planned attendance of 250 people.

In two thematic panels and two keynote talks, we will explore how ideas about the past circulated and were repurposed within East Asian networks of exchange. Some of the questions we will consider include: how did East Asian actors use their understanding of European expansion to burnish their own colonial aspirations? What does it mean to say the Chinese had a ‘Middle Ages’—originally a way of talking about the history of and for Europeans? How might the maritime narratives of East Asians challenge how the past of cultural others is viewed?

The event will run from 10am-5pm in the British Library Knowledge Centre, with a smaller reception from 5pm-7.30pm. You can register for the day event (10am -5pm) at our Eventbrite page. There are also a smaller number of tickets available to our evening keynote and drinks reception from 5pm-7.30pm. You can register for this through our separate Eventbrite page.

Further information on East Asian Uses of the European Past can be found here.

Jesuit-designed Chinese terrestrial globe from the 17th Century (British Museum)