Meetings of this group are also posted on the department's Events calendar

Fall 2020

September 25, What is Islamic Science, with Nahyan Fancy

What makes particular sciences “Islamic”? Does the term continue to serve a purpose for teaching and research? How can we best appreciate the contributions of Arabic and Islamic scholars without falling into familiar traps of regionalization and periodization?

To join via Zoom please email for details


September 4, Where Do We Know From?

We’ve talked a lot about the where and how of our objects and study, but what about the methods and institutions that we’re a part of? Where and how is the University of Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia, and the U.S. part of “the West” -- and how not? What forms of introspection, critique, and responsibility might we turn to the places that we know from, as well as those we know of?We’ll spend the first half of the session talking about some of these questions, based on an exercise developed by Eugenia Zuroski, and the second half sharing information and opportunities about on-going projects within the University and city of Philadelphia.

Suggested readings:

  -  a section of Yasmin Radjy's 2007 undergraduate urban studies thesis, "The Literal and Figurative Boundaries Between
Penn Students and West Philadelphia" about UPenn's relationship to West Philadelphia  [pp. 23-48]
 -   a recent story in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student paper, about W.E.B. Du Bois's experiences at Penn.

Spring 2020

May 8, Fiction
Loosely inspired by the PPEH events featuring Amitav Ghosh the SBW meeting this week is an informal discussion about fiction: writing, reading, teaching fiction and how it relates to story-telling and scholarship, or not.
Everyone is welcome - there's no specific geographic or regional focus, and no background reading - newcomers and friends are all invited. Some things we might consider:
  • How do historical and fictional storytelling fit together?
  • What can we learn about narrative strategies from fiction?
  • Fiction takes many forms...novels, TV, comics, theater...what opportunities and challenges do these forms pose for historical research?
  • What books should I read this summer?
Bring your own questions, reading recommendations, draft sci-fi screenplays, syllabi etc to the Zoom.


April 17, Joint meeting with Debt and Disaster Reading Group: Rob Rouphail, Susquehanna University on Meteorology and Cyclones in Mauritius

We will discuss two of Rob's paper's including his 2019 Isis paper: "Cyclonic Ecology: Sugar, Cyclone Science, and the Limits of Empire in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean World, 1870s–1930s."


March 20, Decolonial Pedagogies, a CTL Teaching Workshop - Meeting 2 of 2 [postponed]

Alexis Rider, CTL Teaching Fellow in the History and Sociology of Science Department, and Professor Sebastián Gil-Riaño will lead the second meeting on implementing decolonial pedagogies.


February 10, Carbon Technocracy with Victor Seow

Victor Seow, Assistant Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, will be joining Science Beyond the West for lunch on February 10th at noon, in 392 Cohen Hall. Professor Seow will be giving a workshop talk, "Monster or Marvel: Technologies of Extraction in a Manchurian Mine," in our Department at 3:30.

We will be reading and workshopping a chapter to Professor Seow's forthcoming book, Carbon Technocracy: Energy Regimes in Modern East Asia. Please let us know if you are interested in joining us so that we can share the chapter with you.


Fall 2019

November 19, Decolonial Pedagogies with Sebastián Gil-Riaño - Meeting 1 of 2

Please join us on Tuesday, November 19 3:30 PM in the Hughes Lounge for a discussion on what it means to decolonize a syllabus, a classroom or a curriculum. The session will be led by Sebastián Gil-Riaño, who will be talking to us about his experience with decolonial methods and pedagogy. As a starting point for the discussion we will be reading the widely cited paper by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, "Decolonization is Not a Metaphor" (2012).

This is the first part of a Science Beyond the West - Center for Teaching and Learning collaboration on decolonial pedagogies. In Spring 2020 there will be a follow up with Alexis Rider leading a session on how to put these ideas into practice. 


November 1, Paper workshop and Penn Museum Gallery Visit with Mirjam Brusius

Please join Science Beyond the West this Friday, November 1st for a works-in-progress session and gallery walk with Dr. Mirjam Brusius! Dr. Brusius is a historian of material and visual culture, with a focus on histories of archaeology, collecting, and heritage between modern Europe and the Middle East. She is a Research Fellow with the German Historical Institute London, and is currently a Weinberg Fellow in Architectural History and Preservation at the Italian Academy at Columbia University for the fall term.

We will meet first in Room 328 in the Penn Museum (Anthropology Department) at 3:00pm to discuss Dr. Brusius’s article manuscript, “The Sciences of Time: Collecting, Museums, and Narratives of Human Race in the History of Science.”


October 28 - Collaborative Pedagogies Debrief

Please join us to reflect on your experiences at the workshop and help us plan next steps and follow-up events. We will meet at 3:30 in the lounge for conversation and snacks!


October 11-12 - Collaborative Pedagogies in the Global History of Science workshop

Collaborative Pedagogies in the Global History of Science will bring together historians of science with different regional specialties (including South and East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa) to tackle the challenges, complexities, and opportunities in teaching the global history of science. The goal of this workshop is to generate new collaborative strategies and resources for teaching the history of science beyond the West. The meeting is open to scholars at all stages of their learning and career development, including undergraduate and graduate students. For a full program see the workshop website.

Registration is required. Please email

Supported by the University of Pennsylvania's Dean's Global Inquiries Fund, the University Research Foundation, the South Asia Center, the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies, the Department of History, the Department of History and Sociology of Science, and the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

**This event was featured in Penn Today**


Spring 2019

*Note there will be fewer meetings this semester to allow adequate time to plan and draft grant proposals to support a small conference on pedagogy for de-centering Western science in Fall 2019*

April 22nd - Lunch and discussion with Warwick Anderson and Sebastián Gil-Riaño

Lunch and discussion with Professor Warwick Anderson and Sebastián Gil-Riaño before the Monday workshop on April 22 at 12 noon in Cohen 493. We will be reading their papers from the recent workshop on "Postcolonial Tensions: Sciences, Histories, and Indigenous Knowledges". Please email either Nikhil ( or Koyna ( if you want to attend and we will send you a copy of the conference agenda and the papers. This will be Science Beyond the West's last public meeting of the semester, so we hope you are able to join us!


April 18 - Works in Progress workshop

We will be reading and commenting on Professor Projit Mukharji’s essay, “Historicizing ‘Indian Knowledge Systems’: Ayurveda, Exotic Foods, and Contemporary Anti-Historical Holisms,” to be published in a forthcoming Osiris volume on food and science.


April 4 - Reading Against the Grain with Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University

Dr. Bhattacharyya, Assistant Professor of History at Drexel University, is a historian of law, economy, and the environment in South Asia and the author of Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta, published last year by Cambridge University Press. She will be discussing how she works with colonial records, especially cartographic materials, in her own research to understand representations of space at a particular time. To facilitate the conversation, she has generously shared a short (3pp.) excerpt from a report on Bengal’s rivers and a pair of maps produced by a London cartographer and NASA, respectively, as well as a visual essay by Gautam Bhadra entitled “Pictures in Celestial and Worldly Time: Illustrations in Nineteenth-Century Bengali Almanacs,” from New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (2014).

Gautam Bhadra - Pictures in Celestial and Worldly Time, from New Cultural Histories of India.pdf

Images for Science Beyond the West - Reading Against the Grain.pdf

Report on the Embankments of the Rivers of Bengal (excerpt).pdf


March 21 - Works in Progress workshop

Papers by Sumiko Hatakayama and Claire Sabel will be precirculated


March 14 - Excavating Knowledge with Joyce White, Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology

An archaeologist of Southeast Asia, Dr. White is a Senior Research Scientist at the Penn Museum and Executive Director of the Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology. She will be speaking with us about her decades of work in archaeometallurgy conducted at the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site in Northern Thailand, and the problems that arise when Western paradigms of civilizational progress affect the interpretation of findings. She has shared the three attached readings, and suggested any attendees choose one and look for any passages that grab your attention. The meeting will begin with an overview by Dr. White and then move into discussion of the following texts.


February 14 - Bodies of Knowledge with Lan A. Li, Columbia University

Dr. Lan A. Li is a comparative historian of the medicine and the body, as well as a filmmaker. She is currently a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University.

We will be reading two short pieces: “The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience” by Shigehisa Kuriyama (2001) and “Visceral Archives of the Body” by Zeb Tortorici (2014). Both are attached to this email. We will be discussing ways of knowing the body through thought, feeling, and experience in non-Western traditions and contexts. Dr. Li will also share her insights from teaching her course for Spring 2019, “The Body in Global Histories of Medicine.” We will have copies of the syllabus available at the meeting, as well as a schedule of upcoming Science Beyond the West events. Finally, we include a link to Dr. Li’s related curatorial project “Metaphors of Mind.” 

Kuriyama Shigehisa - The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience.pdf
Zeb Tortorici - Visceral Archives of the Body.pdf


Fall 2018

Science Beyond the West_Fall 2018.pdf

December 14 - Planning Meeting for Pedagogy Conference


November 30 - Works in Progress Workshop

A paper by Professor Sebastián Gil-Riaño will be pre-circulated


November 16 - Languages and Linguistics with Judy Kaplan, Penn

Dr. Judy Kaplan will be discussing methodological and linguistic challenges of working across different languages including the tensions between pressures to train efficiently(with limited time and resources to fulfill language requirements in grad programs) and to 'go global' (where language access is at issue, and learning languages takes time); whether and how to pursue collaborative publication strategies; different sources for accessing linguistic worlds; and other exciting questions of science and translation—what technical terminology, disciplinary and period comparisons are translatable? The following reading will serve as points of departure:

Kathleen Vongsathorn, "Translators as Informers, Mediators, and Producers of Knowledge: Reflections from Medical History Interviews in Uganda," in Judith Kaplan and Jenny Bangham ed. Invisibility and Labour in the Human Sciences, Max Planck Preprint #484 (2016)
Anette Hoffmann & Phindezwa Mnyaka (2015) "Hearing voices in the archive," Social Dynamics, 41:1, 140-165


November 2 - Teaching the "Big Picture" with Harun Küçük, Penn

Professor Harun Küçük will be discussing pedagogy, metanarratives, and his short piece on teaching history of science 101 from the December 2016 issue of Isis. Note that this piece was part of a larger Viewpoint section in Isis on Frans van Lunteren's proposal for a machine-based "Big Picture" narrative in the history of science, which appeared in the same issue.

B. Harun Küçük, "Darnton’s Cats, Bacon’s Rifle, and History of Science 101," Isis 107, no. 4 (December 2016): 793-795.

October 19 - Science and Medicine in Tanzania with Steven Feierman, Penn

Professor Emeritus Steven Feierman will be discussing his article "Explanation and Uncertainty in the Medical World of Ghaambo" and his chapter with John M. Janzen "African Religions" in Science and Religion Around the World, and the intersections of health and healing, science, and religion in Africa. Professor Feierman has also agreed to reflect on his experiences of teaching histories of health, healing, and science beyond the West.

feierman janzen sci relig.pdf


October 9 - Science and Medicine in China with Nathan Sivin

Professor Emeritus Nathan Sivin will be discussing his article "Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China—or Didn't It?” (first published in Chinese Science, 1982, revised 2005 version is attached), and the categories of "science in China" and "Chinese science."

Sivin_Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China—or Didn't It.pdf


September 21 - Historiography of "Western Science"

Join us for a discussion of the idea of "non-Western" and "Western science," drawing on the following articles:

Anderson 2018. Remembering the Spread ofWestern Science.pdf 
Marwa Elshakry - 2010 - When Science Became Western Historiographical Ref.pdf

Spring 2018

April 13 History and Anthropology

Andi Johnson and Cameron Brinitzer discuss disciplinary differences in History and Anthropology of Science.


March 26 - History of Science in Latin America with Matt Crawford, Kent State

Professor Crawford discusses major themes and debates in Latin American history of science

March 16 - Scholarly identity

When asked about "what we do" in an HSS context, we likely speak in terms of epistemologies, technologies, etc. However, at conferences, on the job market, and in other places, people may be primarily interested in geographical scope (and expertise). Thus, how do categories of "national," "transnational," or "global" affect our research, teaching, and professional development?


March 3 - "Alternatives"

...transnational, world, non-west, global south, area-specific, religious and ethnic designations (or conflations?) e.g. Jewish science, Islamic science, Buddhist medicine, traditional medicine, natural knowledge, vernacular knowledge, indigenous knowledge, TEK, hybrid, colonial, imperial etc. etc. for which geographies do they apply, and who uses them to what ends? how do you make choices among them?


February 19 - Digital humanities with Julia Rodriguez, Univeristy of New Hampshire

Professor Rodriguez is the creator of the History of Science in Latin America Database, HOSLAC


February 16 - Teaching and syllabus design

Discussed the problem of the "global" as it relates to teaching. Focused on syllabus design, implementation and reception (ie teaching). We looked at a few sample syllabi, including some taught by HSS faculty or TA'd by HSS grad students. With Ramah McKay and Sebastian Gil-Riano