The journal History and Theory is devoting a new theme issue to the History of Knowledge. It is edited by Helge Jordheim and David Gary Shaw. The issue includes articles by Federico Marcon, Jeremy A. Greene, Lisa Gitelman, Vera Keller, Johan Östling, Shadi Bartsch, Suzanne Marchand and Clifford Siskin.
The editors introduce the theme in a jointly written article:
“Lively debates have taken place about what the history of knowledge can offer that other approaches cannot. In this article we argue that the advantage of the history of knowledge is its capacity to open up new possibilities for historical work and reflection that are deeply infused with interdisciplinary perspectives and tools. This is important because, within both the academy and in society and politics more widely, we are actually within a knowledge turn or moment in which the stakes of delivering and challenging knowledge are unusually high. At the level of events, experiences, and concepts, the knowledge turn needs examination. The articles in this theme issue also show how issues within the theory of history and the theory of knowledge are ripe for deeper understanding, as both explore deeply issues and doubts about such things as historical development and progress and the existence and importance of knowledge itself, its relation to science and humanistic endeavors, as well as its European, Western, and global historical contexts. These articles also advance a knowledge toolkit of great attraction for historians of all subfields: notions like disknowledge, delay, conceptual and logical comparison, media, materiality, information, and networks are dynamic and productive. In the end, we argue that historical knowledge is itself a key concept that is open to present and past, necessarily constructive in orientation, and skeptical in approach without denying that some types of knowing are more powerful than others and that knowledge as a concept and topic strengthens our interdisciplinary historical and cultural work.”
In his contribution, Johan Östling presents a historiographic overview of the field. Moreover, he discusses the circulation of knowledge and introduces arenas of knowledge as a new concept. Östling writes:
“The recent surge in publications on the history of knowledge may obscure the fact that there are several parallel understandings of what the field is. In this article, I discern five major historiographical directions in contemporary scholarship regarding the history of knowledge. The analytical framework that has so far attracted the most attention is the circulation of knowledge. As productive as it is, the very concept of circulation is in need of both elaboration and theorization. In order to achieve this, I focus on the public circulation of knowledge. This kind of circulation implies that knowledge should be studied as a broad, societal phenomenon. There are a number of possible methodological approaches to study the processes, situations, or contexts where knowledge has or gains public significance. Here I focus on and develop the concept of public arenas of knowledge, which might be virtual, physical, or hybrid spaces. Drawing on several new studies, I demonstrate how different public arenas of knowledge functioned during the postwar period and how they were part of a larger infrastructure of knowledge.”