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Kluge Chair Ken Pomeranz Wins 2021 Toynbee Prize

The John W. Kluge Center extends its congratulations to Kenneth Pomeranz for winning the 2021 Toynbee Prize. The Toynbee Prize is awarded biennially by the Toynbee Prize Foundation “for work that makes a significant contribution to the study of global history.” Pomeranz joins a distinguished recent Toynbee Prize recipients that include Lauren Benton, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Christopher Bayly, Michael Adas, and Jürgen Osterhammel.

Pomeranz is a University Professor of History at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on China, and on comparative and world history. He has researched and written about social, economic, and environmental history, as well as state formation, imperialism, religion, gender, and other topics. As the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the North, Dr. Pomeranz worked on a book titled “Why is China So Big?” earlier this year. He shared some of his expertise on the Kluge Center’s blog recently, in an interview on early economy of China.

Pomeranz shared his thoughts about winning the prize with the Kluge Center:

 

It’s a wonderful surprise – who wouldn’t be honored to join the names on the list of previous Toynbee Prize winners? And I’m very grateful.

I think historians always write as part of a conversation, or really a bunch of conversations: with the people who emerge, however imperfectly, from the sources we read; with earlier scholars, who answered some questions and left others unanswered, or even unasked, or who answered in ways that don’t convince us; and  with all sorts of people in the world around us, whom we might think are taking X, Y, or Z as ‘natural,’ or ‘inevitable,’ when it isn’t, or who have questions about the present that you suspect would look different if you traced them back into the past.

Trying to write history on a large scale means engaging in a lot of those conversations at once, and connecting them to each other without drowning any of them out – which is a challenge I love.

Because the people in those different dialogues come in with different ideas, and different rules of engagement, we rarely get to a level of certainty that almost everyone accepts. But we often can get broad agreement that some answers are better than others – including some answers that we wouldn’t have suspected before.

Showing that research and reasoning will get us somewhere – that there are statements about big issues that may not be as certain as the Pythagorean theorem, but are a long, long way from “that’s just a matter of opinion” – seems to be something we have to prove to ourselves over and over, and being part of that effort is a privilege that I hope I’m putting to good use. It’s how I felt about my time as Kluge Chair as well – it’s the same project, and it’s a never-ending one. If people think I’ve been making some of these discussions better, that’s great.

Data and Surveillance in China and the United States

Aynne Kokas is a Kluge Fellow and an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kokas testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2018, and was scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Chinese censorship of American industry on March 26. That testimony has […]

Find Anything Cool at the Library?

One of the goals of the Kluge Center is to make the Library of Congress accessible to researchers, who can investigate and highlight the treasures it holds. In that spirit, I asked our scholars “Have you found anything cool at the Library recently?” These are their responses. Susan Schneider, Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress […]

Will AI Become Conscious? A Conversation with Susan Schneider

Susan Schneider is associate professor of philosophy and the director of the A.I., Mind and Society Group at the University of Connecticut. She was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Kluge Center in the spring and will be back in residence as the Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology beginning in October 2019. She […]

Parallel Worlds and the Digital Age: Representing Audio Collections with Digital Data at the American Folklife Center and Beyond

This is a guest post by Patrick Egan (Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin), a researcher and musician from Ireland, former Kluge Center Fellow in Digital Studies and currently on a Fulbright Tech Impact scholarship. He recently submitted his PhD in digital humanities with ethnomusicology to University College Cork. Patrick’s interests over the past number of years have […]

Connections in Sound: Irish traditional music at AFC

The following post was written by Meghan Ferriter and originally appeared on The Signal. Patrick Egan is a scholar and musician from Ireland, currently serving as Kluge Fellow in Digital Studies at the Kluge Center. He has recently submitted his PhD in digital humanities with ethnomusicology in at University College Cork. Patrick’s interests over the […]

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This is a guest post by Helen Margetts, John W. Kluge Center Chair in Technology and Society at the Library of Congress. Margetts is a Professor of Internet and Society at the University of Oxford, and served as Director of the Oxford Internet Institute from 2011 to 2018. Her most recent book, “Political Turbulence: How […]

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Tahir Hemphill Looks Back on his Year at the Kluge Center

As Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education Tahir Hemphill’s year at the John W. Kluge Center ends, he took the time to share his reflections on his experience with us at The Library of Congress. Hemphill’s capstone event, playtest, was a daylong social sculpture exploring the application of virtual and augmented reality to the humanities, education […]