Global History and New Polycentric Approaches

  • Commission on Higher Education
  • 2020-06-22 10:46:46
  • 307

The Global History Network (GHN) was recently founded by a group of scholars working on global history at prestigious universities and institutions in China, Japan, Mexico and Europe. This ambitious project began in 2011 when Professor Lucio de Sousa and I, working respectively in China and Japan, jointly identifed the historiographical need to render the expanding feld of global history that might be defned as truly relevant for the new century. Our current institutions, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, serve as academic platforms to expand our network and research in China and Japan. Undertaking such endeavours in both countries represents an opportunity to expand global history in environments with diverse academic traditions. Regardless of current efforts to internationalize Chinese and Japanese universities and research institutions, nobody can ignore the fact that today they remain very far from embracing a truly international and global academic agenda. Such a challenge should be flled with the use of new empirical data and cross-referencing sources from European, Asian and American archives and texts. This enables us to refresh the feld of global history via concrete case studies, especially when we confront meta narratives that aim to answer big-questions such as why the West (or, more specifcally, Great Britain and the Netherlands) fourished economically before China during the frst Industrial Revolution. As a result, our project crystalized with the award of the ERC-Starting Grant, Global Encounters between China and Europe (GECEM), by which this book is sponsored, as well as ongoing related projects. We believe that by joining forces and harmonizing diverse theories, sources and methods of different academic traditions like those from China and Japan, the feld of global history receives a new impulse through diverse case studies. The constant participation of specialists in this field is crucial, as they share their experiences and new ideas on how re-addressing new approaches and questions. The main partner institutions that take part of this network are the University Pablo de Olavide (Spain), Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, followed by Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, the University of Tokyo, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the École de Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France). Global history is in some instances a very sensitive feld, challenging both traditional and sometimes obsolete national narratives. It is crucial for this project, through concrete case studies, to rethink the ways in which global history is envisioned and conceptualized in China and Japan, as well as European and American countries. When a historian constructs a meta narratives, this will always contain a subjective element borne out of ideological and national constraints. Therefore, we should formulate the following pertinent question: how do global events connect to our local and national communities, and, by extension, to our academic environment? Global history is not a practice by which we can arbitrarily combine all type of histories, be it local, national, continental or transcontinental. It is rather an approach through which the historian seeks connections across space, chronologies and boundaries, combining local and global perspectives.1 Challenging and going beyond obsolete patriotic narratives should be the ultimate goal of a global historian.

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