Infrastructures and Events in Global History

AHA Session 254
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Columbia 11 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Selim Karlitekin, Columbia University
Meltem Toksoz, Brown University

Session Abstract

This panel brings together the nascent historiography on infrastructures and transnational history to suggest an alternative to writing global history. In the fight against ethnocentrism and nationalism, post-War histories contributed, under the sign of civilization, to the history of Mankind (Toynbee, Spengler). Autarchical tendencies were replaced with a unitary vision whose subject was the 'man' (of UNESCO, Duedahl 2011). Yet, soon enough, Foucault testified to the ephemeral nature of this modernist conception. It was the product of a certain arrangement of different knowledges that made 'man' thinkable, and an event to come will surely make it disappear ”like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.” (1966) New epistemological arrangements in the past decades have indeed started to fulfill Foucault's prophecy. The concurrent rise of the post-human, science and technology studies, environmental history, global intellectual history, and the recent "infrastructural turn" offers new perspectives and challenges to define the place of humans and non-humans in histories and historiographies. Within a new historiographical ecology, what will global history look like? In this panel, we are looking forward to probing new global infrastructures and the concomitant "events" as a conceptual framework that renders possible transnational thought and dialogue. As Global History is fast becoming a catch-all term that covers all periods and objects (Conrad 2016), and as the usual registers of circulation and translation are running out of steam, we suggest that reengaging global history through the spirals of "infrastructures" and "events" can offer a fruitful venue to reconsider and rediscover transnational history without reifying hierarchies and anachronisms. In this panel, scholars working on East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern histories will build on their respective fields of expertise to discuss subjects ranging from global Islamic movements to frontier state-building, information technologies, and colonial indifference.
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