Dagmar Schäfer is fascinated by past practices and discourses of making and how they affect us today. A trained sinologist and historian of science and technology her research interests range from the history and sociology of technology of China, to the paradigms configuring the discourse on technological development, past and present. She received her doctorate at Würzburg in 1996 and her habilitation in 2005. After leading an MPIWG Independent Research Group on the History of Science and Technology in China, she was granted the Chair of China Studies and History of Technology at the University of Manchester in 2011, and took up directorship of Dept III, Artifacts, Action, Knowledge in 2013. Recent guest professorships and residential scholarships include Jiao Tong Shanghai University, 2017, the IAS, Princeton, 2019, and the EUI, Florence in 2022.
For her current reading course (in German) at the Freie Universität, Berlin, she explores the structural conditions, socio-political inequalities, institutional arrangements and cultural attitudes that shaped the experience of poverty in Ming-era China. Schäfer has published widely on the premodern history of China (Song-Ming) and technology, materiality, the processes and structures that lead to varying knowledge systems, and the changing role of artifacts—texts, objects, and spaces—in the creation, diffusion, and use of scientific and technological knowledge. Schäfer’s monograph, The Crafting of the 10,000 Things (University of Chicago Press, 2011), received the Pfizer Award and Levenson Prize. Recent publications include the special issue coedited with Simona Valeriani, Technology Is Global: The Useful & Reliable Knowledge Debate and Ownership of Knowledge: Beyond Intellectual Property, (Brill, 2023) coedited with Annapurna Mamidipudi and Marius Buning. In 2020 she was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the DFG (German Research Foundation) for her development of new approaches to cultural studies and the resulting comparative perspectives on a comprehensive global history.