Uncertain Knowledge: The Making of Slow Science between the Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe


ACLS Fellowship Program




The role of uncertainty in reaching the truth has perplexed scholars in the present and the past. Uncertainty has been valued as a precondition for the production and progress of scientific knowledge—if extended, it might be a flaw or defect in knowledge. This book project will show how and why the outlines of uncertainty, both intentionally and contingently, remained ambiguous and boundless during the globalization of scientific and medical knowledge in the early modern period. The rhetoric of uncertainty became a new mode of inquiry and a highly productive new epistemic strategy to accommodate emerging anxieties about human diversity, confessional and inter-religious conflict, and the fragmentary knowledge of newly circulated medicinal substances and plants. Taking comparative and connective perspectives that bridge the Ottoman and European contexts of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the book will offer a more granular picture of knowledge-making by revealing when science loses its firmness and becomes provisional, revocable, and all in all slower in an increasingly global world.