Teaching and Presentations
I am the head supervisor for Paper 1, Part II History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, covering the early history of science and medicine, from antiquity to 1800. I supervise third-year undergraduate students in "Revisiting the Scientific Revolution," "Early Medicine," "Visual and Material Culture," and "Traditions of Knowledge and Healing," "Islamic and Chinese Science," "Natural Knowledge in the Enlightenment," "Institutions of Natural Knowledge Production," "Early Modern Natural Knowledge," "Topics in the Social History of Medicine," "Islamic and Chinese Medicine," and "Medicine and Natural History 1500-1800." I have also supervised Paper 2, Part II History and Philosophy of Science, on "Modern Science and Technology in East Asia." In Spring 2022, I gave two invited lectures to undergraduates at Utrecht University: one on "The Needham Question" and the other on "The Intellectual Origins of Race and Racism in Western Europe."
In addition to presenting my research at over thirty-five conferences and workshops across Britain, Europe and the United States, I have organised three conference sessions, including one plenary panel.
Plenary: "Jesuit Sciences in the Southern Seas" at Scientiae 2023 in Prague
Abstract: Over the past three decades, scholars have increasingly emphasized the importance of Jesuit missionaries and their engagement with disparate extra-European knowledge traditions in the construction of the early modern sciences. From China to New France to Paraguay, Jesuits served as go-betweens, translating local knowledges embedded in different societies into an ostensibly universal, catholic, Catholic framework. However, studies on Jesuit encounters with extra-European ways of knowing largely focus on bidirectional exchanges, echoing the wider trend in postcolonial studies to examine Europeans’ interactions with and constructions of a binarily opposed Other. This panel seeks to complicate this narrative by exploring the making of hybrid Jesuit sciences in spaces at the nexus between empires and trade networks. Focusing on multicultural spaces located at the confluence of different southern oceans—the Cape of Good Hope, Manila, and Paraguay—this panel will examine the processes through which the Jesuits recrafted distinct extra-European knowledges into an all-encompassing Catholic cosmology. As such, it will shed light on the ways in which Jesuits drew on diverse Indigenous and extra-European knowledge traditions and labour to articulate a distinctly global understanding of nature.
Roundtable: "Appropriation and Erasure: South Africa in the History of Science" at the BSHS Digital Festival for the History of Science 2023
Speakers: Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh (Cambridge), Katherine Arnold (Rachel Carson Center, Munich), Jules Skotnes-Brown (St Andrews) Commentator: Isabel Hofmeyr (Witwatersrand)
Abstract: Where does South Africa fit within the history of science? Between the late fifteenth and late nineteenth centuries, almost every traveller sailing between Europe and Asia spent time at the Cape of Good Hope. Despite the increasingly global outlook of the history of science, however, the discipline has thus far failed to pay adequate attention to this crucial intercultural contact-zone. Bringing together early career scholars working on disparate periods, this roundtable explores how southern African natures and Indigenous knowledges were simultaneously appropriated by the sciences and written out of their histories. Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh begins in early modernity, recounting how Jesuit missionaries’ interactions with the Cape’s nature, night skies, and Indigenous Khoekhoen population formed a crucial yet overlooked part of the religious order’s global knowledge-making project. Then, taking us to the nineteenth century, Katherine Arnold investigates how the unique character of the Cape’s endemic fynbos vegetation was ignored by metropolitan botanists despite its central role in taxonomic categorization and biogeographical studies. Finally, focusing on the turn of the twentieth century, Jules Skotnes-Brown examines how Zulu experts on nagana (livestock trypanosomiasis) were erased from the history of medicine in South Africa, despite providing the epistemological foundations and labour necessary for the study of this disease. The roundtable, which invites contributions from the audience, seeks both to restore South Africa’s position in the history of science and explore the ways in which “nature” has been deployed to write out southern African peoples’ knowledges from global histories of science.
Panel session: "Credibility in Circulation" at the History of Science Society Virtual Forum 2020.
Chair: Pratik Chakrabarti (Houston) Presenters: Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh (Cambridge), Eszter Csillag (Hong Kong), Margaret Gaida (Caltech). Commentator: Alexander Statman (UCLA).
Abstract: Little over a decade ago Kapil Raj published his ground-breaking book Relocating Modern Science, which argued that historians of science have much to learn from relocating their studies of the construction of knowledge from specific, localized sites to spaces of circulation. This shift, Raj argues, reveals the indispensable role played by non-European actors and knowledges in the co-construction of methods and practices that have gone on to shape modern "Western" science. Since then, historians-particularly those striving to understand the non-Western character of what has elsewhere been characterized as "European modernity"-have employed Raj's methods to great effect. One key issue that deserves further exploration, using episodes from across historical and geographical demarcations, is that of the credibility of non-European methods in shaping the emergent disciplines associated with "European" or "global" modernity. For example, in his recent work on the "first global turn," Alexander Statman suggested that Europeans' encounters with Chinese history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries radically reshaped conceptions of what "world history" could look like as an academic discipline. How does a shift from local to circulating spaces change the way historians of science can analyze the construction of credibility? The papers in this panel explore the processes involved in constructing credibility in spaces of circulation and examine whether these reveal previously under-appreciated non-European agency involved in the development of ostensibly "European" methods in emergent disciplines during the Enlightenment. The session seeks to problematize the categories of "credibility," "circulation," and "modernity" in the historical analysis of the emergence of certain disciplinary practices-in particular world historical, astronomical, and natural historical methodologies-in Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.
Delivering a guest lecture on "Race, Capitalism, and the Enlightenment" at Utrecht University in May 2022
Presenting "Emptiness and/or Exoticism? Contrasting Cartographies of the Cape Colony" at the Koninklijk Nederlands Institut Rome in May 2022
Presenting "Monuments, astronomy, or hermeneutics? China and the invention of Enlightenment world history" at the History of Science Society Virtual Forum 2020 in October 2020
Presenting "Archaeology, Astronomy, or Hermeneutics? The Jesuit China mission and different ways of knowing the deep past in Europe" at the European Society for the History of Science 9th Annual Conference in September 2020