Eduardo A. Escobar will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Tuesday, September 11, from 12:15 to 1:15 pm. His talk is entitled “Neither Natural Nor Artificial: Material Worlds in Assyrian Scholarship.”

This talk focuses on the ways in which cuneiform scholars understood technology—particularly the manipulation and classification of the material world—without relying on binary models of knowledge nor an explicit aim to replicate “nature.” Using 7th century BC Assyrian sources as a starting point, Escobar will explore cases wherein techne (hands-on knowledge) and episteme (theoretical knowledge) are epistemically equivalent and wherein genuine materials are indistinguishable in the writing system from artificial ones, blurring the line between nature and artifice, and challenging traditional knowledge categories. Escobar will elucidate what we can learn by engaging in close readings of Assyrian recipes and scholarly lists that concern the material world with the aim of introducing cuneiform cultures to the intellectual history of technology.

Eduardo A. Escobar is a historian and Assyriologist whose research focuses on cuneiform scholarly cultures of the ancient Middle East. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley (2017) in Near Eastern Studies with a designated emphasis in Science and Technology Studies, and holds degrees from Columbia University, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor at the newly-founded Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at The University of Chicago. Escobar has written on Assyro-Babylonian technological recipes for making glass and perfume, social networks of astronomers, and mathematics. At Chicago, he teaches courses on the history of science in the premodern world, Babylonian knowledge, and historiography. During his time at Bard Graduate Center, Escobar will be workshopping his working book manuscript, entitled The Scribal Craft: Cuneiform Recipe Knowledge and the Language of Technology. This work details the central role technology played in the construction of scribal knowledge.