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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

The Grammar of Modernity: Inquiries into the History of 19th and early 20th Century Oriental Philology

Responsible for the postdoc project: Dr. Henning Trüper
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: January 2009 – December 2011
Research Field: Entangled Histories

Philological notes by Theodor Nöldeke


My project explores the history of the philologies in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It aims at the historical epistemology of this field of varying disciplines, institutionalised to different degrees, but unified by a set of shared practices: such as an interest in antiquity, the production of grammars and dictionaries, the collecting of inscriptions during research travels, the techniques of critical editing. The project asks for the significance of philological practice for the development of a specific scholarly culture, to be understood as an indispensable component of European cultural history in the modern age: as one of several processes of ‘scientification’ (that are not regarded as proceeding towards a single determinate destination). In particular, the project aims at clarifying that and how the formation of epistemic patterns of philological scholarship was based on encounters with and projections on Asian – “Oriental” – regions of the world. Furthermore, it will ask in what way the patterns in question crucially influenced the development of specific discursive and practical forms of politics, historical culture and religion. The project will consist of several case studies that will cover chronologically and thematically diverse areas, thus addressing the different aspects of the subject matter.


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