Conferences – Call for Papers

Indigenous Knowledge as a Resource?

Multidisciplinary workshop "Indigenous Knowledge as a Resource? Transmission, Reception, and Interaction of Global and Local Knowledge between Europe and the Americas, 1492-1800" organized by Laura Dierksmeier (SFB 1070 “Resource Cultures”, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen), Fabian Fechner (FernUniversität Hagen), Kazuhisa Takeda (Meiji University).

  • Date: 10.09.2018 – 11.09.2018
  • Institution: Universität Tübingen
  • Location: Tübingen / Deutschland
  • Documents to: fabian.fechner[at]

Since antiquity, knowledge has often been juxtaposed with opinion. Whereas opinion referred to subjective perceptions and viewpoints, knowledge was intended to represent objective and verifiable propositions. On this view, knowledge per se had a universal dimension in that it pretended to be approvable through the reason of everyone, everywhere. This universal aspect of the occidental concept of knowledge stands in marked contrast to cultures of local knowledge, where the generation of knowledge was dependent on specific times and places.

One such example is the validity of indigenous knowledge contested by Europeans and likewise, indigenous challenges to European knowledge. Based on religious, linguistic, demographic, and cultural disparities, knowledge operative in one context was adapted, manipulated, reframed, or dismissed, as spurious or heretical in another framework. Focusing on the early modern period, this multidisciplinary workshop will focus on specific examples of global and local knowledge transmission, reception, and interaction between Europe and the Americas, including the Canary Islands and the Philippines. Among the broad range of possible topics and textual/pictorial/material sources are bi-lingual and pictorial catechisms, archive inventories, European natural histories, maps, commodity money, sources on indigenous medicine and nutrition, child-specific knowledge, and climate and the environment.

The organizers also encourage comparative perspectives on the knowledge dynamics and policies in the territories dominated by the Spanish and the Portuguese, such as from the English, French, Dutch and Nordic (e.g. Russian, Danish, Swedish) colonies in the Caribbean, North America, and the Guianas. In addition, ways in which indigenous knowledge was preserved or included in archives, libraries or manuals allows for further angles of inquiry. Last, historiographical discussions on ‘indigenous knowledge’ will examine to what extent the concept was manifested in early modern societies, or whether the concept is exclusively a modern analytical tool.

Possible thematic questions:

  • In which ways was local knowledge a fragile resource?
  • When and how was local knowledge valued; when was it contested?
  • How were European epistemologies challenged by indigenous knowledge?
  • Can we reconstruct assumptions of global knowledge by Meso- and South American empires?
  • To what extent did indigenous groups manipulate information fed to European conquerors, missionaries, traders, and settlers?
  • Which material objects were integral to local knowledge? How did creole and mestizo Americans mediate between European and indigenous knowledge?
  • How do archives in the Americas reflect the circulation and transmission of information between Europe and the wider world? In which ways was information sorted out?

Submission: Historians, linguists, archeologists, art historians, ethnologists and anthropologists of the Americas are cordially invited to submit an abstract of 250 words in English or Spanish with a narrative C.V. of 100 words to fabian.fechner[at] for a presentation (in English or Spanish) of 15 minutes.

Notification Deadline: April 15, 2018

Location: University of Tuebingen in the medieval town of Tuebingen, Germany
Closest airport: Stuttgart (33 km / 20 miles); Trains from Frankfurt am Main airport (221 km / 137 miles / 2-hour high speed train) and Munich airport (249 km / 154 miles / 4 hours) also possible.

Included: Workshop fees and catering will be covered for all accepted participants through the generous funding of the German Research Council (DFG) and the research group: SFB 1070 “Resource Cultures.”

Travel Grants: Very limited funds are available to assist participants who otherwise could not attend. Please contact Laura Dierksmeier for further information.

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