Rihla: Science and Medicine Across the Silk Routes

This long-term project explores the history of scientific and medical exchange between China and the Islamic World. Based on research in Chinese, Arabic, and Persian texts, I am trying to understand the ways that human and non-human bodies were manipulated and translated in early modern scientific and medical exchanges across Central Eurasia, especially between Chinese and Islamic textual cultures in early modernity.

By focusing on the importance of itinerancy and the translation of scent, sound, feeling, and movement in texts about natural objects, this work seeks to understand how embodiment and sensory experience were translated in the context of exchange about the natural world and humanity’s place in it. How were human and nonhuman bodies (and ways to understand and manipulate them) negotiated among several medical and linguistic cultures across Central Eurasia? How were bodily experiences of time and space communicated in this context? This work engages the recent historiographical interest in the role of sensory experience in the writing of history especially with regard to the importance of scent and sound to the history of colonial and early modern scientific exchange.

Ultimately, this research will resolve itself into a book on medieval and early modern Chinese-Islamic knowledge exchange and its modern ramifications.