The “global turn” in the social sciences in the 1990s had a profound influence on all disciplines including the history of science. This is witnessed in the significant and continuous rise of publications pertaining to this theme since the beginning of this century, which see themselves mainly as aiming to counter the ubiquitous Eurocentricity of the domain. A closer look at the history of the history of science shows, however, that in spite of its preponderant focus on western Europe, the rest of the world was not ignored ever since the history of science was instituted as an intellectual field at the beginning of the 20th century. On the contrary, the relationship between the West and the Rest, although an uneasy one, has been a constant and central preoccupation of historians of science over the past century. This talk will trace the trace the changing portraits of this fraught relationship ever since the institutionalisation of the discipline through the launching of Isis in 1913, through its transformation into an academic field after World War II, its metamorphosis in the wake of 1960s counterculture, and non-Western reactions to its tenets, concluding with a reflection on possible meaningful articulations between science, society and the world for our own age.
Kapil Raj ist Professor für Wissenschaftsgeschichte an der École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.