Since September 2013 we have been involved, as a group of PhD students and postdocs from very different disciplines, with transformations in the production of knowledge. Unlike historical transformations of cultures, societies or other systems (e.g.the legal system), epistemic transformations investigate the question of what selection and transformation processes a subject goes through to become part of the stock of knowledge in an academic field. In this process describing, archiving, classifying, reconstructing, visualizing, modeling and suchlike are practices which do not simply represent the subjects, but also turn them into elements of knowledge in specific ways. What is the significance of such transformations taking place in the formation of knowledge? How much should it give us cause for concern as academics? What is it that despite this turns knowledge into academic knowledge?
It has proved useful to divide our monthly workshops into two parts: After reading something from Philosophy in the first part (e.g. Latour, Marin, Kuhn, Foucault) one participant presents his/her methodical approach to the rest of the group. In this we are specifically interested in methodical questions which are seen from the standpoint of different disciplines, thereby broadening and enriching everyone’s horizon.
A second key issue of the workshop is historical transformations: how can transformation processes in history be understood and described? What role is played by concepts such as historical change, tradition, order, paradigmatic change etc.? We are also interested in the overlap between epistemic and historical transformations in those cases where a society is in a process of fundamental change in that it is developing specialized knowledge, particularly such knowledge as is concerned with its own foundations and origins. This constellation is also of great relevance in the debate on conceptions of the collaborative research center ‘Transformations of Antiquity’.
In monthly meetings researchers from groups across all areas come together to discuss the concept of transformation.
Image above: Illustration of the “Altes Museum Berlin” | Source: Fritz Krischen, Antike Rathäuser (1941) Taf. 2