Third Theoretical Interlude Classification in the Natural Sciences

Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:
Third Theoretical Interlude Classification in the Natural Sciences

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The qualities of British classification systems from the nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries can best be demonstrated by considering their specific qualities, which they adapted from modern western science. By the nineteenth century, European-originated natural sciences had established a positivist and empirical paradigm that displaced most other ways of knowing the natural world while increasingly eclipsing previous paradigms for knowing humanity. This was particularly true in regard to European biological taxonomies, like that of Carolus Linnaeus, that established a classificatory model soon adapted to categorize cultures and religions. Harnessed by the British imperial state in India despite indigenous resistances, its hegemonic power grew among Indians, many of whom gradually accepted the conclusions of Western-dominated scientific research either because they found themselves persuaded or in an effort to become fluent in the state's preferred episteme.

Keywords: classification; categorization; natural sciences; biology; taxonomy; Linnaeus; Jonathan Z. Smith; Ray; Buchanan

Chapter.  3631 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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