Cultural Brokers and Other Historiographic Metaphors: Perspectives from Indo-Tibetan Cultural History
This paper explores the contours and the potential usefulness of the concept of cultural broker in the context of the long history of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. I'll begin by sketching the two intersecting domains of thought here: "Indo-Tibetan" Buddhist history and its historiography, and the history and varied meanings of the concept of cultural broker. Then I'll offer an operative definition of cultural broker. Next I'll present one example drawn from the history of Buddhism in Tibet that we can use as a case study for using the broker concept to best effect. Finally, I'll suggest that even if the concept of cultural broker might be found to be limited in its scope and application, the very process of defining, refining, and applying this and other concepts is a key aspect of the challenge of explaining cultural change over time.
Were participants in cross-cultural exchange of premodern scientific knowledge cultural brokers?
The concept of cultural broker is rarely used in history of science before the 16th century. When it is used it seems to be limited to men from Catholic countries and institutions in colonial contexts. This is in so far surprising as the histories of premodern sciences are described as replete with acts of cross-cultural exchange of scientific knowledge. In order to question the applicability of the concept cultural broker to those acts I will first discuss Korinna Schönhärl’s definition of what cultural brokers do as “double allopoiesis” with regard to European travelers in Islamicate societies in the early modern period and then ask whether and if so, how her approach is translatable to earlier periods and other cultures.