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Fusion of two images: "Dyers scraping stenciled fabrics," figure 235, Hommel & Mercer, China at Work 1937, and "Indian indigo-dye worker," photo A. Mamidipudi, 2017.

Dept. III

Artifacts, Action, Knowledge

The Department's research structure has three entry points: artifacts (things), action (making), knowledge (work). These open up qualitative methodological pathways that are complemented by critical engagement with our Source Based Initiatives. Along each pathway, research activities are organized into collaborative working groups focused on project-based outputs that promote discussion and debate on the production of knowledge.

Current working groups and their respective leaders in the Department include:


Working groups in "Artifacts" use the body of animals to address the historical thresholds of animality, knowledge, and materiality. They engage with the methods and geographies that underwrite how people have known about and through animals.


Working groups in "Action" use histories of planning to emphasize the dynamics of how different forms of knowledge are used to “make things work” through conceptual and material processes.


What kind of work is it to make knowledge? Working groups in “Knowledge” place the experts and their practices in the center of historiographical investigation. Taking a cross-cultural and longue durée approach, we explore how practices shaped our understanding of science and knowledge cultures.

Source Based Initiatives

Quantitative research methods, such as digitization and database access to material, whether scanned images, digital texts, or other types of digital facsimiles, create opportunities to reorder, remix, and re-examine sources that researchers have long been studying. Bringing together massive amounts of sources in their digital forms, Source Based Initiatives allow the examination of gigantic bodies of clues to reveal their underlying knowledge structures.

Externally Funded Working Groups

The Department also hosts externally funded working groups whose research complements existing interests and activities at the Institute.

Completed Working Groups

For all working groups in the Department since 2013, please click here.