'과학기술'에 해당되는 글 1건

  1. 2018.06.04 UCLA_18S_K296A_W8
독서/STS2018. 6. 4. 20:29

 History of science and technology is an ever-growing, vibrant field of historical inquiries that asks historical meanings, usages, contexts, interactions, and effects of a wide range as well as variety of hitherto untouched, or taken-for-granted, concepts and topics which have been understood in scientific and technical terms such as objectivity, chemistry, and soundscape.[1] It should be noted that this discipline, forming a part of the broad science, technology, and society studies (STS), shares a number of epistemological (asking modes of knowing entities) and ontological (studying the being of entities) assumptions and perspectives with environmental and medical histories due to certain overlapping features such as a varying degree of focusing on agency of nonhuman things and decentering endeavors that unmask the hegemonic mode of understanding.[2] Reflecting the growing social necessity of historically asking certain phenomena, colleges in the US have offered different graduate programs for those interested in history of science, technology, environment, and medicine (STEM hereafter).[3] Especially, environmental history has recently drawn a lot of attention from various fields and disciplines, for it succeeds in shifting researchers’ focuses of question to unconventional, nonhuman subjects that were crucial in shaping as well as understanding historical actualities.[4]

 Eight articles of this week clearly show the nascent status,[5] (un)popularity as well as achievements of studying history of STEM in the Korean history field. Understanding the genealogy as well as context of Korean research on STEM history seems to be necessary. However, it should be more important, I believe, to critically appreciate those articles in order to get insight, inspiration, and imagination that could altogether benefit our works.

 Dongwon Kim’s two articles with Taeho Kim’s book chapter, albeit with certain limitations in interpretations as well as narratives, hint at how history of science is done in a Korean historical context: history of modern, or Western, science has been a constant source for this endeavor and how Koreans historically tinkered with physical, chemical (agricultural), and atomic phenomena (B. Whisoh Lee, 1935-1977) should be powerful sites to be investigated. Additionally, as seen in the aforementioned texts, there are at least more than three actors that creates history together: scientists who conduct, define, and reproduce ‘science’; those (e.g. state, government, private companies) who want to put their own bridle on ‘doing science,’ by controlling the flow of funds towards scientific projects; and participants (e.g. citizens, workers, end-users) which engages with certain schemes with a varying degree of initiative, intention, and impact.

 Choi’s works in history of technology have certain dimensions in common, such as different actors and their transnational interactions with international entities (Japan and America in most cases), with history of science articles. In addition to grasping these points, closely looking at keywords of his works could be useful in appreciating the history of technology field. From my perspective, proper attention should be paid on the following terms: “a process of co-evolution” (2007, 55) and “a nuanced story” (2017, 917). It is widely recognized that both Koreas have been in rivalry during and after the Cold War period and that they have staunchly pursued economic development at the expense of their citizens and the principle of democracy. In different phases of this process, both Koreas tried to import technologies from outside, intentionally selecting and transforming them to fit in their specific systemic and technological environments. However, as every historical actor, facing an array of circumscribed options, has to change, improvise, and abandon previous technologies and relevant ideas. Choi aptly points out this by historicizing the rise of the TMS as “a process of co-evolution of political ideology and management technology” and by arguing for telling “a nuanced story” of modern Korean technology, where imported knowledge (which equals to “no innovators”) have prevented researchers from grasping the richness and diverse dynamics embedded in it.[6]

 Informed by Micah Muscolino’s concept of “the energetics of militarized landscapes,”[7] Fedman probes “the exigencies of war reconfigure the energy flows that sustain both military operations and civilian life” (Fedman, 2) by looking into how the Japanese Empire attempted to reserve, mobilize, and exploit Korean sylvan resources and to regulate the everyday lives of the Korean people via caloric control. Having a great resonance with the crafting of environmental history in the English-speaking academia, Fedman’s work provides historians with a number of possible topics such as forestry (natural resources and state power), ondol (residential environments and architectural technologies), and fuel consumption (consumption behavior, state propaganda, and conduct of war) that could be historically examined in the near future.[8]

 History of medicine is another promising field which has constantly attracted an army of researchers. Interest on history of biopolitics as well as researchers’ attention to an innumerable number of medical records as primary sources seem to partly constitute the reasons.[9] Both John and Suh, although with strikingly different timeframes, deal with Korean history of medicine through the lens of medical technology and change of the meaning of the term. As in history of science and technology, both national and transnational actors come on the stage, creatively making different moves that either crack or cement the realities they encounter. In addition, these two clearly reveal that not only the physical projection of power from the state but also variegated representations from non-state actors jointly form the changing definition of things, which urgently calls for resolutely historical investigation to be conducted.


Works Cited


David Fedman, “Wartime Forestry and the “Low Temperature Lifestyle” in Late Colonial Korea, 1937–1945,” The Journal of Asian Studies 77:2 (2018), 333-350.

Dong-Won Kim, “Imaginary Savior: The Image of the Nuclear Bomb in Korea, 1945‑1960.” Historia scientiarum: international journal of the History of Science Society of Japan 19:2 (2008), 105‑118.

Dong-Won Kim, “The Conflict between the Image and Role of Physics in South Korea,” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 33:1 (2002), 107-129.

Hyungsub Choi, “Rationalizing the Guerilla State: North Korean Factory Management Reform, 1953–61,” History and Technology 20:1 (2007), 53-74.

Hyungsub Choi, “The Social Construction of Imported Technologies: Reflections on the Social History of Technology in Modern Korea,” Technology and Culture 58:4 (2017), 905-920.

John DiMoia, Reconstructing Bodies: Biomedicine, Health, and Nation-Building in South Korea Since 1945 (Stanford University Press, 2013). Intro+Ch 4.

Soyoung Suh, Naming the Local: Medicine, Language, and Identity in Korea since the Fifteenth Century (Harvard University Press, 2017). Intro+Ch 5.

Tae-Ho Kim, Social History of Rice in Modern Korea (Tŭllyŏk, 2017). Intro+Ch 4.

[1] Lorraine J. Daston and Peter Galisonks, Objectivity (Zone Books, 2007); Michael D. Gordin, Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English (The University of Chicago Press, 2015); Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933 (MIT Press, 2002).

[2] I refer to the usage of one promising STS scholar in defining epistemology and ontology. Tiago Saraiva, Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism (The MIT Press, 2016).

[3] For instance, UCLA History department provides the “Graduate Program in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology” and one of the authors of this week, Soyoung Suh, received her doctorate from this program.

[4] Though not regarded as an environmental ‘history’ book, Timothy Mitchell’s book on oil and democracy is widely known. Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (Verso, 2011). Victor Seow’s PhD dissertation is written in a similar vein with Timothy’s, but his articles deals with modern Asian history of energy and political imagination. Victor Seow, “Carbon Technocracy: East Asian Energy Regimes and the Industrial Modern, 1900-1957” (Harvard University PhD dissertation, 2014).

[5] There are only a few universities in South Korea, where researchers study history of STEM at graduate level. For example, though the “Program in History and Philosophy of Science” was established in Seoul National University in 1984, it is not unsafe to say that only a handful of STEM history students were trained so far and that the international collaboration among STEM history researchers has just begun.

[6] Gabrielle Hecht ed., Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War ((The MIT Press, 2011); Eden Medina, Ivan da Costa Marques and Christina Holmes eds., Beyond Imported Magic: Essays on Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America (The MIT Press, 2014).

[7] For a detailed explanation of the concept, see Micah S. Muscolino, The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938–1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2014), 4-9.

[8] Certain works could be useful for this endeavor. Seonmin Kim, Ginseng and Borderland: Territorial Boundaries and Political Relations Between Qing China and Choson Korea, 1636-1912 (University of California Press, 2017); Judd C. Kinzley, Natural Resources and the New Frontier: Constructing Modern China's Borderlands (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming).

[9] Theodore Porter, Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity (Princeton University Press, forthcoming).

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