China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The digital revolution is affecting how we conceive and order knowledge. The rigid disciplinary arrangements of the past are systematically challenged and information is structured in increasingly diverse ways. A widespread assumption behind this transformation is that this is the first time such tectonic changes are taking place. Yet, deeper examination of the often overlooked knowledge organization practices of the past reveals that such questions have been indispensable through time. This panel explores how knowledge has been organized in China from the first known bibliographic project, to the massive medieval and late imperial compilations, to the adaptation of Western classification practices in the 20th century. By examining fundamental aspects of classification—such as notions of authorship, the quest for preservation, imagistic conceptions of knowledge, and the effects of culture on classification—this panel problematizes contemporary conceptions of knowledge and its order by offering a cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary presentation of the classification practices of one of the most sophisticated and long-lasting knowledge societies in the history of the world. Bringing together scholars from philosophy, philology, intellectual history, as well as library and information studies and digital humanities, this panel aims to show the multi-dimensionality of knowledge organization practices in China. Building a historical arch with some of the most significant moments of Chinese bibliography, this panel offers an overview of classification practices in China, historically contextualizing and culturally supplementing the current predicaments of the digital revolution, and ultimately interrogating what Chinese bibliography can teach us about the nature of knowledge today.