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The Interlopers

Early Stuart Projects and the Undisciplining of Knowledge

Vera Keller

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A reframing of how scientific knowledge was produced in the early modern world.

Many accounts of the scientific revolution portray it as a time when scientists disciplined knowledge by first disciplining their own behavior. According to these views, scientists such as Francis Bacon produced certain knowledge by pacifying their emotions and concentrating on method. In The Interlopers, Vera Keller rejects this emphasis on discipline and instead argues that what distinguished early modernity was a navigation away from restraint and toward the violent blending of knowledge from across society and\u2026

A reframing of how scientific knowledge was produced in the early modern world.

Many accounts of the scientific revolution portray it as a time when scientists disciplined knowledge by first disciplining their own behavior. According to these views, scientists such as Francis Bacon produced certain knowledge by pacifying their emotions and concentrating on method. In The Interlopers, Vera Keller rejects this emphasis on discipline and instead argues that what distinguished early modernity was a navigation away from restraint and toward the violent blending of knowledge from across society and around the globe.

Keller follows early seventeenth-century English "projectors" as they traversed the world, pursuing outrageous entrepreneurial schemes along the way. These interlopers were developing a different culture of knowledge, one that aimed to take advantage of the disorder created by the rise of science and technological advances. They sought to deploy the first submarine in the Indian Ocean, raise silkworms in Virginia, and establish the English slave trade. These projectors developed a culture of extreme risk-taking, uniting global capitalism with martial values of violent conquest. They saw the world as a riskscape of empty spaces, disposable people, and unlimited resources.

By analyzing the disasters—as well as a few successes—of the interlopers she studies, Keller offers a new interpretation of the nature of early modern knowledge itself. While many influential accounts of the period characterize European modernity as a disciplining or civilizing process, The Interlopers argues that early modernity instead entailed a great undisciplining that entangled capitalism, colonialism, and science.

Reviews

Reviews

Challenging the narrative that modernity was built on the foundation of a systematically ordered and disciplined science, Vera Keller brilliantly shows how intellectual interlopers engaging in a variety of risky projects contributed to the undisciplining of knowledge. The Interlopers, a fascinating and panoramic account, radically changes the ways we think about science, curiosity, and power during the advent of capitalism.

Was the scientific revolution the beginning of organized curiosity or an early modern smashup where illegal traders raided the world like pirates? Following interlopers and projectors across the high seas, Vera Keller shrewdly re-envisions the origins of modern science not as foundation and order but invasion and chaos.

Vera Keller's arresting new book on 'Projectors' invites us to rethink the intellectual landscape of early modern Europe. In place of civil and dispassionate rationalists Keller offers us impassioned opportunists, or 'interlopers': greedy, piratical and far from risk averse, recombining their pillaged knowledge in temporary, improvised forms, riding roughshod over disciplinary and social divides—'knowledge on the loose'.

Upending the view that early modern science was a genteel and methodical affair, Keller reveals that the pursuit of knowledge in that formative period was an adventurous, ruthless, predatory—and not infrequently violent—business. Like today's charismatic technologists, the 'projectors' of the sixteenth century moved fast and broke things. As exhilarating as it is erudite, The Interlopers will change how you think about innovation, in 1623 and 2023.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
368
ISBN
9781421445922
Illustration Description
20 b&w photos
Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Undisciplining of Knowledge
1. The Political Economy of Projects
2. Cast of Characters
3. "Projectors are commonly the best Naturalists": Knowledge Practices

Abbreviations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Undisciplining of Knowledge
1. The Political Economy of Projects
2. Cast of Characters
3. "Projectors are commonly the best Naturalists": Knowledge Practices
4. Statecraft: "Swimming between two Waters" in Global Policy
5. Transplanters of Empire: Forcing Nature and Labor
6. Turning against the Liberal Arts
7. Unlimited Invention
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Vera Keller, PhD

Vera Keller (EUGENE, OR) is a professor of history at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Knowledge and the Public Interest, 1575–1725.