Organized Session

SHOT Joint Session

Building the Margins : Infrastructure and Nation at the Intersection of Sea, Sky, and Soil in China, Japan, and Korea

Organizer

Subodhana Wijeyeratne

Harvard University

Chair

Ian Miller

Harvard University

Metadata

Session Abstract

The work of historians such as Bill Tsutsui has laid bare what he describes as the 'terrestrial bias' in a great any works of history - a preoccupation with the activities and conceptualization of nations and states on land. Yet as this panel intends to show, in the case of rapidly developing East Asian states of South Korea, Japan, and the People's Republic of China, both infrastructure and imagination have extended into novel physical dimensions. Resources derived from littoral and deep-ocean spaces have become key to global energy regimes; the expansion of communications networks in space have become crucial to the strategic objectives of rising powers; and the tapping of water tables and deposits lying deep beneath the surface has become crucial to economic development. The terrestrial bias has been rendered more misleading than ever in these cases by the nation-state's extension into sky, sea, and soil.
Expanding on the intellectual contributions of Michael Reidy, Fa-ti Fan, Manyong Moon, and others, this panel will explore the expansion of facilities, systems, and physical networks into novel physical dimensions - the sea, the sky, and the underground. The papers presented here will also explicate the concurrent expansion of the conception of nation into these previously marginal spaces. Bringing together examples from Japan, China, and Korea, they will demonstrate how a fundamental re-imagining of the dimensionality of the nation as already taken root in East Asia, and how it will behoove historians to amend their understandings of their subject matter accordingly.

Presenter 1

Cheju as Contested Model: Parasitology, Public Health, and Nation-Building in Post-Colonial South Korea, mid-1960s

John P DiMoia

Seoul National University

Abstract

Among the issues associated with the transition from Japanese colonialism (1910-1945) to an independent South (1948- ) and North Korea (1948- ) was the issue of the scientific community, and its corresponding emergence as an independent knowledge-making body. In the area of field biology, for example, Manyong Moon has written of Korean assistants or "helpers" to Japanese biologists during the colonial period, with a number of these individuals later playing a significant role in the formation of South Korea's emerging institutions. More recently, Jaehwan Hyun has used the archive of pre-war physical anthropology, paired with post-war genetics, to raise similar questions about a body of knowledge.
This paper takes up this cluster of issues with reference to (1) Cheju Island and its function within (2) South Korean parasitology, with this space and island together functioning as the convenient "other" / "nearest faraway place" for numerous public health studies and interventions. Along with related offshore islands, Cheju offers a space in proximity to the Korean mainland, with a geography sufficiently small to survey quickly, and easy to control for external variables, providing a site highly appealing to Japanese officials and later, Korean public health officials when conducting field trials of new methods. In this sense, Cheju, along with the agricultural southwest, has long provided an "internal colony" as a marker for developmental comparison, thereby explaining a portion of its appeal.
Looking at parasitology and, specifically, the career of Korean practitioner Seo Byung Seol, the paper tracks the emergence of South Korean knowledge-making, while placing this activity within the fiercely contested dialogue of the new nation: the present-day biomedical community, with its ambitions, arguably has its roots in these agrarian, rural origins.

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Presenter 2

Constructing Coastal Biological Stations in 20th Century China: Tsingtao and Hong Kong

Christine Luk

Tsinghua University

Abstract

Recent scholarship has illuminated spatiality as an inherent feature of the enterprise of science. Fa-ti Fan, for example, has examined the unfolding of natural history from the boundary-crossing endeavors of British naturalists and Chinese indigenous participants in nineteenth century China. While Western naturalists primarily saw China as a space to explore and to collect, they also recognized the importance of place, particularly how human institutions defined the placeness of science. Marine biological stations along the China coast are one of such man-made places that relate to not just the practice of biological collecting and investigation but also recast the traditional perception of China as mostly a land-based empire. While the history of Western influences on China's coastal cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong are relatively well understood, few have examined how marine biology is positioned in China's coastal relationship with the West.
This paper examines the interplay of various historical forces in constructing coastal biological stations in twentieth-century China. I use the case of Tsingtao and Hong Kong to elucidate the trajectory of marine biology in China. Tsingtao's path to marine biology is paved with state intervention from the beginning, and continued to be so after 1949, whereas Hong Kong's first marine biological laboratory did not materialize until 1970. The discrepancy of marine biological institutions at Tsingtao and Hong Kong highlight the political and institutional circumstances in shaping efforts to implement marine biology in Chinese coastal cities with different colonial and scientific legacies.

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Presenter 3

Between the Rocket and the Deep Blue Sea: Space Exploration and the "Fishing Problem" in Southern Japan, 1950-1980

Subodhana Wijeyeratne

Harvard University

Abstract

When the fledgling National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) selected Uchinoura for its new space centre in the early 1960s, it had little idea that it would provoke a confrontation with one of the country's best organized industrial groups: fishermen. Alarmed by the prospect of launches and falling rocket debris disrupting their livelihood, local fishermen organized a campaign of protests and demonstrations so successful that construction at the facility was suspended for two years. In contrast, other locals enthusiastically welcomed the facility, expecting a large financial windfall in the form of new infrastructure, and a vibrant tourist economy.
The clash between locals, bureaucrats, and space specialists at Uchinoura presents a historian of nationhood and infrastructure in Japan with a fascinating case study. In extending Japan's presence into the sky, the Japanese state had provoked responses from those who conceived of their national hinterland as lying primarily in the sea. The confrontation involved tensions between central authorities and local interests, competing conceptions of nationhood, and broader discussions about what direction the Japanese state should take during a period of unprecedented economic and technological development.
This presentation will focus on the lived experiences of the men and women directly involved in it. From the garrulous mayor of Minamitanecho, to the fishermen of Uchinouracho, to formidable head of the local women's association, these figures were key in establishing a settlement - and, in the process, defining the form and functionality of Japan's expansion into the sky and seas in the mid-20th century.

Metadata

Commentator

Zuoyue Wang

California State Polytechnic University