Event Date: 6 December 2011
Flett Lecture Theatre
Natural History Museum
London SW7 5BD
Wallich and Indian Natural History:
Collection Dispersal and the Cultivation of Knowledge
Kapil Raj (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
Abstract: Between July and September 2011, I had the honour of spending two and a half months as a resident research fellow at the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research of the Natural History Museum, London. This fellowship, which was the culmination of the “Wallich and Indian Natural History” project, was intended to review the South Asian natural history drawings, often executed by indigenous artists, held at the three recipients of the World Collections Programme grant for the Wallich project. These drawings and paintings number nearly 30,000 items in the three London institutions alone. In this talk, I shall focus on the highly enriching experience of working collectively with members of the staff at the NHM, where I spent most of my time, the working conditions and facilities, the nature of the collections, and above all, some of the directions and themes for future research using these vast, invaluable collections to throw new light on the global history of natural history, the historical anthropology of intercultural encounter and imperial and colonial history in general.
Biography: Kapil Raj is Directeur d’Ètudes (Research Professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He is attached to the Alexander KoyrÈ Centre for the History of Science of which he is currently co-director. His research focuses on the construction of scientific knowledge through the circulation and encounter of South Asian and European specialised practitioners and their skills in the early modern and modern periods, the subject of his recent book, Relocating Modern Science (2007) and of a collective work entitled The Brokered World (2009). He is currently engaged in writing his next book on the urban and knowledge dynamics of Calcutta in the 18th century.