This essay, written from the vantage point of a historian specialized in early modern Japan, asks if and in what capacity the history of knowledge offers an advantage for our understanding of the past compared to established historiographical forms. It accounts for the intellectual relevance of this genre of history and concludes with a strong endorsement of its self-reflexive methodology. It also contends that historical research on East Asia is of inestimable value for this historiographical approach because of its resistance to uncritically universalizing Eurocentric terminology and because of its direct engagement with transcultural translation of both archival sources and heuristic apparatus. Historians working on knowledge production in East Asia or in other parts of the “non-Western” world must constantly question the effects of their interpretive categories on the topics and archives they study; they are thus accustomed to the epistemological self-reflection that this new approach seems to require. The essay concludes by advocating metaphorical comparison as a formal model that best expresses historians’ heuristic practices.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- comparative history
- critical history
- early modern Japan