„Scholarhip as such is not a Western model“ – Interview with Jas‘ Elsner

Why do we absolutely need to talk about cultural history in the context of colonization? How can we find grown-up ways to developing non-european structures of thinking so that they are able to communicate with european structures of thinking in order to show what is lacking, weak and inedequate on our side? Why should scholarship be conflictive?
Jas’ Elsner, archaeologist and art historian from the University of Oxford and KOSMOS  Fellow at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, spoke about those and other questions with Colin Guthrie King (Providence College, Department of Philosophy), one of the initiators of the month summer school Globalized Classics. Their conversation took place on July 20. 2015 at the Classics Department of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Jaś Elsner is Professor of Late Antique Art at Oxford and of Art and Religion in the University of Chicago. He has been the Principal Investigator of the Empires of Faith project between the British Museum and Oxford since 2013.
His work focuses on the receptions of art – notably viewing (e.g. his books entitled Art and the Roman Viewer, 1995 and Roman Eyes, 2007), and collecting (for instance, the edited volume The Cultures of Collecting, 1994) as well as pilgrimage (for instance, Pilgrimage Past and Present, 1995 and Pilgrim Voices,2002), the place of art works in travel writing (for instance his various articles on Pausanias, not least the edited volumes of 2001 and 2010) and ekphrasis (including work on the writings of Philostratus and Lucian, and the recent edited book on Art and Rhetoric in Roman Culture, 2014). He focuses both on the ancient Roman period and the early Christian world including Byzantium.
In recent years – in connection with the Centre for Global Ancient Art in Chicago and Empires of Faith, as well as in collaboration with Finbarr Barry Flood in a Mellon Foundation sponsored program on the futures of Art History in New York University – he has turned to issues of global and comparative art history within late antiquity and to the pernicious problems of Eurocentrism and Christianocentrism which haunt the historiography of ancient and medieval art.

Having completed a BA in philosophy (Colgate University) and an M.A. in Classics and philosophy (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Colin Guthrie King completed his doctoral studies in philosophy at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2009 with a thesis on Aristotle’s concept of endoxa. He was coordinator of the August-Boeckh-Antikezentrum of the Humboldt-Universität from 2009 to the 2014, during which time he was a fixed-term member of the Departments of Philosophy and Classics. As coordinator of the Antikezentrum, he initiated and helped to initiate a number of programs, including the KOSMOS summer university “Globalized Classics” and an ongoing research cooperation between Princeton University and the Humboldt-Universität, “Ancient knowledge in the modern university”. Colin Guthrie King’s research concerns the history of ancient philosophy and science, in particular the use of testimony and authority in both; but also the history of the modern scholarship on ancient philosophy and the modern constitution of philosophical “classics”. Recent publications include “Aristotle after Austin” (in: Antiquorum Philosophia, 2015), “False endoxa and fallacious argumentation” (in: History of Philosophy and Logical Analysis, 2013), as well a forthcoming co-edited volume on the history of Aristotelian studies in the 19th Century (with Gerald Hartung and Christof Rapp, in: New Studies in the History and Historiography of Philosophy, 2015). He has also co-edited a volume on the history of Classical studies in Berlin in the 19th Century, Die modernen Väter der Antike (de Gruyter, 2009). Currently he is working on a monograph with the provisional title: Aristotle’s endoxa: Authority and dialectic in ancient philosophy and science.

Globalized Classics is a one month summer school at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The project brings 54 early career scholars from around the world together with 13 seniors scholars from several Classical disciplines. It includes a seminar on the methodology of the study of pre-modern antiquity as well several intensive and comparative graduate seminars. The seminars range in theme and disciplines from Sinology and Classical philology, the history of Islamic and Christian art, the global history of empires, the Rigveda and its commentary tradition, and the study of the history of ancient medicine. A concluding conference, Globalizing Classics, takes place September 4-5, 2015 and is open to the public.

More information about the summer school and conference may be found here.


Christian Boulanger

Christian Boulanger ist Wissenschaftlicher Koordinator von "Recht im Kontext" an der Juristischen Fakultät der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin sowie Mitgründer und zweiter Vorsitzender des Berliner Arbeitskreis Rechtswirklichkeit.

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