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GDRI ZOOMATHIA: Cultural Transmission of the zoological knowledge (Antiquity-Middle Age): discourses and technics

The project ZOOMATHIA aims to study the formation and transmission of ancient zoological knowledge over a long period, with an historical, literary and epistemological approach, through texts and iconography, especially in a pivotal period (late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages), presenting a large dispersion and a wide range of atypical relay of this knowledge. This project is inspired by the the program « Seminars of history on zoological knowledge » led by Liliane Bodson in Liege from 1989 to 2004. This project is motivated by the lack of research coordination on the area, and aims to establish a synergy of investigations often solitary or focused on very limitated corpus or topics. Generally limitated to a few central figures and lamenting the « disappearance of Aristotle’s biology » (J.G. Lennox), the research on ancient zoology needs a more extensive, synthetic and diachronic approach. The purpose is to build a critical and methodological history of zoological knowledge, enlightening overlooked periods or process of the transmission and social/literary mutation of this knowledge. This diachronic synthesis has to take into account the different dimensions of zoological knowledge (through texts, images and biological data): biology, epistemology, history, philology, archeology, philosophy and technology.

Situation and Purpose

This project is motivated by the lack of coordination of the researches in this scientific field, and aims to establish a synergy of investigations often isolated or individually undertaken without specific scholar programs. The purpose is to build a critical and continuous history of zoological knowledge, and to favor obscure or missing parts of this history usually reduced to few authors and focused on prominent species. Even when they are really historical, the researches seldom offer a real diachronic depth and continuous history. A major reason of this is the current lack of a consistent corpus data. Actually, even the synthetic works often describe a succession of phases or key moments in the evolution of anthropo-zoological relations, and not a progressive tradition. In order to offer a real history of zoological knowledge, it is necessary to emphasize in this research the concept of transmission, in all its dimensions, since it is the cultural vector of this history.
The objectives are threefold: structural, intellectual and scientific. On a structural level, it is crucial to coordinate in an institutional network the research on traditional zoology, which will provide a more effective and rewarding framework for researchers involved in the issues of the project. On an intellectual level, the purpose is to give more visibility, consistency and recognition to this field of study, and to the currently dispersed research community involved in thes problematics. From the scientific point of view, the challenge of this project is to build tools to process standard zoological data, and constitute collectively a general history of classical zoology thanks to the complementary expertise of the network members.

Zoomathia Scientific Project

Institutionnal context
This project intends to cooperate to the scientific policy of promoting “interdisciplinary” projects, developing anthropological, historical and ecological perspectives. Due to the numerous disciplines involved, and the methods and the period embraced, it affects both the INSHS (sections 35 & 32), and the INEE (section 31) through the concern for “environmental” dimensions and cultural ecology,. It is also related to the INS2I institute (section 06) through the participation of a research team of the I3S laboratory (UMR 7271) specialized on knowledge engineering and semantic web, for the creation of open knowledge sources on classical zoology and their publication on the web of linked data. The participation of research units of these two institutions for the French area clearly shows the joint interest in this project. It is notably connected with the GDRE BIOARCH (2008-2015), more focused in general on bioarchaeology and earlier periods, but including also in the consortium members whose work focuses on textual data, and technological aspects that are essential to the project.

The project is organised in two main programs, divided in two or several workpackages, which are linked together and will be conducted simultaneously. The framing and timing of operations will be determined in a scientific council to be set up at the launching of the GDRI. The orientation and working meetings will be scheduled at two levels: the network and the axis. The responsibilities will be managed jointly by a member of the network and the project manager. The first program of the project, dedicated to the inventory, the organization and display of resources, is essential to the realization of the project, and will further enable a public enrichment of the scientific tools to work on classical zoology. The ergonomic requirements of this development will be taken into account from the start of the scientific project.
As with any project, the managing must not only meet organizational requirements, but tend to constitute a real community of objects and tools, and prescribe specific guidelines, which require flexibility on the part of researchers, to produce results that are not a juxtaposition of restricted analyzes (on an author or animal: see Toynbee 1973, Ciccarese 2007), but reach a collective and historical synthesis. Being the dispersion of studies on archaeozoological texts and images the main obstacle to the development of the history of zoology in the historical period of the project, GDRI must therefore clearly define adequate targets to intersect approaches and synthesize data.

The official partner list is limited to ten, but many individual researchers or teams beyond this list are interested in the topic. Thus, this list includes also a complementary list.

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Présentation générale du GDRi Zoomathia
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