Colonisers often used this knowledge to legitimize their actions, manifest their power, as well as to dominate, control and command colonised subjects.
Many aspects of the production of colonial knowledge have been widely researched and discussed within historical studies, but there are some research gaps that this conference wants to acknowledge and address. While many recent publications on the production of colonial knowledge focused on the early modern period and the height of imperialism in the 19th century, the 20th century, especially the time after 1918, has been less studied. Taking a closer look at the 20th century as an era of decolonization and as a time in which a new global world order was established, however, offers new insights for studying the production of colonial knowledge and raises questions that participants of the conference are invited to discuss. Some of these questions are: How did the colonial knowledge order of the early imperialist period evolve in the 20th century and in how far did the “scientisation of the social” (Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen, L. Raphael) also include the colonial sphere? In which ways did decolonization affect the global knowledge order, especially as colonies became testing grounds for experiments that scientists could not realize in the imperial motherlands (e.g. in the field of medicine, nuclear technology etc.)? And what role played certain “colonial knowledge objects” in the process of self-emancipation and decolonisation of the global knowledge order?
The conference aims to analyse and discuss the evolution of colonial knowledge in the 20th century within a global framework and wants to ask in how far an analysis of a (de)colonised knowledge order can be fruitful for understanding both colonial and postcolonial global histories. In this sense, hierarchical binaries in historiography still prevalent today (e.g. “western knowledge” vs. “indigenous knowledge”) must be questioned in order to do justice to the complex and multi-layered nature of colonial knowledge in the 20th century. In this respect, it is the aim of the conference to challenge established master narratives (such as the modernization theory) and to open up the discussion for a more complex understanding of colonial knowledge in a decolonized world.