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Discussion Group

Unobvious parallels

Add to calendar 2023-04-21 10:00 2023-04-21 12:00 Europe/Rome Unobvious parallels Sala del Torrino, Villa Salviati and on Zoom YYYY-MM-DD


21 April 2023

10:00 - 12:00 CEST


Sala del Torrino, Villa Salviati and on Zoom

This event, as part of the EUI Decentering Eurocentrism Reading Group series, will discuss Dariusz Kołodziejczyk’s paper “Unobvious Parallels: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Wacław Sieroszewski, and Their Role in Gathering Imperial Knowledge in Sumatra and Yakutia in the 1890s.”

What was the role of individual experts and scholars, teachers and translators, political prisoners and exiles in making and dissemination of imperial knowledge? What were the circumstances of their encounters with local informants? How these local interlocutors shaped their perception of imperial spaces?

In his recent article Kolodziejczyk focuses on two authors who in the 1890s contributed towards the European knowledge of two Asiatic societies—the Acehnese in Sumatra and the Yakuts in Siberia. They arrived in Asia in very different capacities: a Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje as an advisor to the Dutch colonial government, and a Pole Waclaw Sieroszewski as a political prisoner. Whereas Snouck Hurgronje was an established scholar, Sieroszewski was a self-taught ethnographer, who traded his knowledge gathered during the years of exile for freedom and scholarly recognition, granted by institutions of the same Russian empire against which he had fought as a Polish revolutionary. And yet there were also striking similarities between the two men. They both owed their intimacy with the studied societies to their "going native," including marriages with local women. Their works also reveal common patterns as they followed scholarly standards accepted in post-Enlightenment Europe, although Sieroszewski was less persuaded of the merits of Europe's "civilizing mission." The two cases shed light on two European imperialisms that deviated from the ideal type, associated by Edward Said with Britain and France, as well as different circumstances of the encounters between Europeans and Asians along with their ethical implications.

Participants of the session are asked to read Dariusz Kolodzieczyk & Igor Iwo Chabrowski (editor), "Unobvious Parallels: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Waclaw Sieroszewski, and Their Role in Gathering Imperial Knowledge in Sumatra and Yakutia in the 1890s," Journal of World History, Volume 34, Number 1, March 2023, pp. 47-76. The paper is available in open access.

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