Syllabus & Other Things

The Course

Science and technology studies in East Asia is an expanding, multidisciplinary field. Sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have taken on questions of innovation and indigeneity to make sense of the parameters that define knowledge systems in Asia and the Global South. As industrial centers in East Asia continue to intensify, so does a swelling sentiment to capture and maintain national and cultural legacies. What do histories of science and technology in East Asia look like? What should they represent?

To answer these questions, this course used histories of scientific and technological artifacts to explore the boundaries between forms of knowledge and expertise that are both common and uncommon. Each week, we paired an artifact or process with core literature from Science and Technology and Society (STS) studies to read again the grain and raise new historical questions. Rather than a comprehensive survey of scientific ideas alone, this course takes on histories of everyday objects and their practices to expand the scope of STS at large.

The Assignments

The exploration of artifacts and facts brought together perspectives in material cultural and social studies of science to generate new historical questions and theoretical frameworks about knowledge production and consumption. From clocks to paper, from pregnancy to death, we closely examined a range of processes to make sense of the social, temporal, and political structures in which they are embedded. This furthermore served as a window into encounters that forge distinctions between native and foreign, old and new, relevant and obsolete.

In the first assignment, participants engaged in a close reading of an object/process by recreating it.  And from their reconstruction, students developed a research topic that expanded on broader historical shifts and narratives in which the object was embedded.



“Four Genealogies for a Recombinant Anthropology of Science and Technology” 539–615 Fischer, Michael M. J. 2007. Cultural Anthropology.

“Connecting with the Past? A Commentary.” 327–33
Bray, Francesca. 2010. East Asian Science, Technology and Society.


“Introduction,” “Significance” 1–27
Edgerton, David. 2011. The Shock of the Old.

“Recipes for Men: Manufacturing Makeup and the Politics of Production in 1910s China” 134–57
Lean, Eugenia. 2015. Osiris

“Why the Scientific Revolution Did Not Take Place in China–or Didn’t It?” 45–66 Sivin, Nathan. 1982. Chinese Science.

“Crisis and the Emergence of Scientific Theories” 66–134 Kuhn, Thomas S. 2012. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

“The Problem of China in the Study of the History of Korean Science” 239-252 Kim, Yung Sik. 2014. Questioning Science in East Asian Contexts.

2 | HOW TO TELL TIME (2/2)


“Theoretical and historical background” 1–15
“From Munjong to Yongjo (1450-1776)” 94–115
Needham, J., Lu GD, Combridge J, and Major J. 2004. The Hall of Heavenly Records.

“The Late Ming Calendar Crisis and Gregorian Reform” 63–103 Elman, Benjamin A. 2005. On Their Own Terms.

“Translating Time: Habits of Western-Style Timekeeping in Late Edo Japan” 785–820 Frumer, Yulia. 2014. Technology and Culture.

“Knowledge in Motion: The Cultural Politics of Modern Science Translations in Arabic” 701–30
Elshakry, Marwa S. 2008. Isis.

“Introduction” 1–12
Liu, Lydia H. 2000. Tokens of Exchange.


“Mirrors and burning mirrors” 87–101
Needham, Joseph. 1962. Science and Civilisation in China.

“‘Stars Should Henceforth Register Themselves’: Astrophotography at the Early Lick Observatory.” 177–202
Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. 1997. The British Journal for the History of Science.

“Seeing In” 133–65
Screech, Timon. 2002. The Lens Within the Heart.

“Seeing and Believing: The Experimental Production of Pneumatic Facts” 22–79 Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. 2011. Leviathan and the Air-Pump.

4 | HOW TO MAKE PAPER (2/16)


Hanji Documentary (2016) Hanji (2011) Im Kwon-taek

“Technology and processes of papermaking” 52–83
Needham, Joseph, and Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin. 1965. Science and Civilisation in China.

“Craft Knowledge at the Interface of Written and Oral Cultures” 185–205 Eyferth, Jacob. 2010. East Asian Science,Technology and Society.

“Books as Material Objects” 39–74 Kornicki, Peter.1998. The Book in Japan.

“Tacit Knowledge” 1–12
Collins, Harry. 2012. Tacit and Explicit Knowledge.

5 | HOW TO CLASSIFY (2/23)

“The Bencao gangmu and the World It Created” 28–50
“Representing Nature: From ‘Truth’ to ‘Accuracy’” 228–250
Marcon, Federico. 2015. The Knowledge of Nature and the Nature of Knowledge in Early Modern Japan.

“Here Be Dragons: A Reader’s Guide to the Bencao gangmu” 50–68 Nappi, Carla. 2009. The Monkey and the Inkpot.

“Travel and Fieldwork in the Interior” 122–154 Fan, Fa-ti. 2004. British Naturalists in Qing China.

“Forward” “Introduction: Japan’s Ecological Modernity” xv–24
Miller, Ian Jared, and Harriet Ritvo. 2013. The Nature of the Beasts.


“The Chinese Medical Revolution and the National Medicine Movement” 97–120 Lei, Sean Hsiang-lin. 2014. Neither Donkey nor Horse.

“Military Animals” 95–119
Miller, Ian Jared, and Harriet Ritvo. 2013. The Nature of the Beasts.

“Herbs, Laboratories, & Revolution: The Making of a National Medicine in Vietnam” 43–56 Wahlberg, Ayo. 2014. East Asian Science Technology and Society.

“Vishalyakarani as Eupatorium Ayapana” 65–87
Mukharji, Projit Bihari. 2014. The Journal of Asian Studies.

“Matters of Fact vs Matters of Concern” 87–120 Latour, Bruno. 2007. Reassembling the Social.

7 | HOW TO BE HUMAN (3/9)


“The Concept of Human” 86–112 “Labor Created Science” 113–136 Schmalzer, Sigrid. 2008. The People’s Peking Man.

“The Edge of Expertise.” 160–67 Li, Lan A. 2015. Endeavour.

“Race, Empire and Biology before Darwin” 14–128
Sivasundaram, Sujit. 2010. Biology and Ideology from Descartes to Dawkins.

“Racializing the Body Through Science in Meiji Japan” 83–102 Terazawa, Yuki. 2005. Building a Modern Japan.


8 | HOW TO DRESS (3/23)


“The Fabrics of Power” 183–191
Bray, Francesca. 1997. Technology and Gender.

“The Erotics of Place” 145–186
Ko, Dorothy. 2007. Cinderella’s Sisters.

“The Kimono” Handmade in Japan, Series 1:2. 2017.

“The Mechanization of Japan’s Silk Industry” 135–60 Wittner, David G. 2005. In Building a Modern Japan.

“Social Movements and Contested Sociotechnical Imaginaries in South Korea” 153–73 Kim, Sang-Hyun. 2015. Dreamscapes of Modernity.


“Introduction” 7–16
Hay, Jonathan. 2010. Sensuous Surfaces.

“How Does the Subaltern Speak?” An Interview with Vivek Chibber.

“Towers” 43-84
“From Darkness to Light” 85–128
Mrázek, Rudolf. 2002. Engineers of Happy Land.

“Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown” 17–44 Shah, Nayan. 2001. Contagious Divides.

10 | HOW TO EAT RICE (4/6)

“A Desire to Eat Well: Rice and the Market in Eighteenth-Century China” 84–98 Cheung, Sui-Wai. 2015. Rice: Global Networks and New Histories.

“Rice and Maritime Modernity: The Modern Chinese State and the South China Sea Rice Trade” 99–117
Lee, Seung-Joon. 2015. Rice: Global Networks and New Histories.

“Promiscuous Transmission and Encapsulated Knowledge” 118–137 Biggs, David. 2015. Rice: Global Networks and New Histories.

“Yuan Longping: ‘Intellectual Peasant’”
Schmalzer, Sigrid. 2016. Red Revolution, Green Revolution.

“Technological Momentum and the Hegemony of the Green Revolution” 135–72 Lo, Kuei-Mei, and Hsin-Hsing Chen. East Asian Science, Technology and Society.

11 | HOW TO GET SICK (4/13)


“‘Conquering the One Hundred Diseases’ Weisheng before the Twentieth Century” 22–75 “Health and Disease in Heaven’s Ford” 48–75
Rogaski, Ruth. 2014. Hygienic Modernity.

“The Puzzle of Spermatorrhea in Republican China” 551–96 Shapiro, Hugh. 1998. Positions.

“Male Anxieties: Nerve Force, Nation, and the Power of Sexual Knowledge” 37–60 Frühstück, Sabine. 2005. Building a Modern Japan.

“Wounds of the heart: Robert Lifton, PTSD, and the psychiatric reassessment of survivors of trauma” 144–175
Zwigenberg, Ran. 2016. Hiroshima.


“Blood and Life” 195–231
Kuriyama, Shigehisa. 1999. The Expressiveness of the Body.

“The Imagination of the Body and the History of Embodied Experience” 17–29 Kuriyama, Shigehisa. 2001. International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

“An Uncertain Harvest: Pregnancy and Miscarriage” 120–146 Wu, Yi-Li. 2010. Reproducing Women.

“Dying Like the Buddha: Intervisuality and the Cultic Image” 24–57 Moerman, D. Max. 2007. Impressions.

“Why Pictures in Tombs? Mawangdui Once More” 27–34 Wang, Eugene. 2009. Orientations.

“Jouissance of Death? Han Sarcophagi from Sichuan and the Art of Physiological Alchemy” 152–66
Wang, Eugene. 2012. Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics.

“Quick and Easy Chinese Medicine: The Dunhuang Moxibustion Charts” 227–51 Lo, Vivienne. 2005. Medieval Chinese Medicine.

13 | HOW TO SEE GHOSTS (4/27)


Ghost in the Shell

Sanders, Rupert. Action, Crime, Drama, 2017.
“Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism.” Ueno, Toshiya.



Audio editing workshop & object photography



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