Practice and Cultures of Mathematics
History of science and history of technology, as fields of research, are affected by several trends that require critical reflection. Most of these trends are widespread. The issue of cultural diversity is quite widespread and diversity is conceived around national, ethnic, linguistic and religious identities. These identities are perceived as homogenous and essentially distinct from each other. Some of the researches in history of science and technology also begin with similar assumptions, and at times these researches contribute to the shaping of such identities. “Area studies” still constitute a way of organizing research in social sciences and humanities. According to such a pattern for the organization of research, the history of science in China would be more closely related to the study of ancient bronzes or to political changes since Deng Xiaoping that it would relate to the history of knowledge in India. Conducting research in this way contributes, in our view, more to reifying identities than it allows tackling the theoretical problems raised by the emergence, development and use of knowledge in various social contexts. This last remark leads us to another set of unfortunate trends that affect history of science and history of technology and that are more specific to these fields. The organization of research described above has tangible effects. The disciplines of history of science and history of technology mainly cover science and technology in the West, whereas all the other parts of the planet are either dealt within “area studies” or approached through specific research programs such as “science and empires”, “science and technology in the European periphery.” There is no doubt that these research programs are essential for developing our knowledge in history of science and technology worldwide. However, they clearly reflect the fact that the fields of history of science and history of technology show the global picture of an asymmetric approach to phenomena related to knowledge, depending on where these phenomena occurred. Accordingly, the history of knowledge develops in groups that hardly communicate to each other or, to say the least, fail to establish firm bridges and syntheses among their contributions.
IASCUD sets itself the task of promoting a critical analysis of such trends in the field of the history of knowledge. It diagnoses that the divide of history of knowledge based on the areas studied is detrimental to a fruitful deployment of the field. IASCUD thereby aims at bringing together all those who are convinced that a global approach to the history of knowledge provides the right framework for a fully theoretical approach to science and technology. It sets itself the task of building bridges among various groups that develop the history of knowledge, wishing thereby to promote a new understanding of what may be conceived as “cultural diversity” in relation to science.