Science and Technology Studies in Asia

EVENT – 12 July 2022

Science and Technology Studies in Asia

2022 CTSH Meeting

Three issues are worth mentioning as they illustrate these divergent paths and should be the focus of a discussion about their origins and their consequences.

First, STS scholars in Asia include in their analysis concerns about the long-term history of knowledge and technology in the region. This on the one hand provides the background for a sustained dialogue with historians of science in East and South Asia who – after Needham and many others – engage in writing histories of science in China, Japan, Korea or India without taking Europe as obligatory reference point, acknowledging the specificity of “local” categories, practices and institutions. On the other hand, this dialogue with history infuses Asian STS with a commitment to understand how epistemic hegemony is made and remade since the structural tensions and deep asymmetries, which lay at the core of West/East scientific encounters, can’t be escaped whether one is investigating colonial or postcolonial situations. The legacy of the Indian subaltern historiography is in this respect important with for instance major work on the ways in which the life sciences, biomedicine or the environmental sciences travel(led) from the West to be locally reinvented through resistance, diversion and fragmentation.

Second, and this is partly a correlate of the first point, STS scholars in Asia have launched important projects mobilizing history to investigate the transformation of non-Western forms of knowledge, what may be called their “alternative” modernization through processes, which either create hybrid corpuses and practices, new institutions and professions or alternatively juxtapose them. Cultural encounter is a central motive in anthropology. The discipline has developed sophisticated means of approaching the uneven dialectics of appropriation, translation, misunderstandings and losses. It is therefore not by chance if the fate of Chinese, Korean, Tibetan or Indian systems of medicine, the modalities of their “integration”, “industrialization” and “globalization” have attracted much attention in Asian STS. These studies constitute the backbone of a lively conversation with the anthropology of medicine, raising for instance anew the question of symmetry: not as a tool for denaturalizing science (as it was the case in controversy studies), nor as a means to acknowledge the role of non-humans (as it was the case in ANT), but as a dialectics between supposedly incommensurable regimes of knowledge.

Third, Asian STS resonates with the more general trend toward studies of global circulations but tends to build upon a broader understanding of governance and regulation. There are obvious reasons for that choice, beginning with the limited obviousness of the liberal paradigm in countries where inequalities remain massive, where the Welfare state is fragmentary, where large-scale industrialization and urbanization are recent developments. Regulation is accordingly rarely dissociated from questions of political economy, i.e. from the ways in which the administrative and legal spheres, the construction of markets, the social policies and the production of knowledge interact at a given time and place, eventually forming a specific and coherent regime. Studies of innovations in the Japanese, Chinese or Korean industrial systems and of their failure (as shown by recent research on the Fukushima catastrophe) are in this respect illustrative of a different way of engaging STS with economics than what recently proved a landmark in Europe, namely studying the mathematical models and instruments involved in the financial economy.

Beyond the obvious need for a discussion about the validity and limits of such a description, the panel we seek to organize aims at identifying frontier themes and theoretical tools deemed important to problematize “the” global, its relations to local practices and policies, the multiple/alternative modes of innovation and intervention it entails.

This event is organised in the framework of the first annual meeting of the Euro-Asian research team – Capitalisms, technologies, societies and Health, to be held from July 7th to July 13th 2022, followed by two others in 2023 and 2024. The general goal of the project is to revisit the relations between technologies and societies by focusing on health issues. This annual meeting, bringing together the project’s research team on the Condorcet Campus, should help to communicate the team’s work to a wider public, strengthen collaborations within the research project, report on the first results and set the next steps.

  • 12th July 2022
  • 13.00 to 15.00 (France Time)
  • In English
  • On site – Centre des Colloques – Salle 100 | Campus Condorcet Place du Front populaire, 93322 Aubervilliers cedex
  • Mandatory registration
  • Program

 Speakers:

Naonori Kodate (University College Dublin), Wen-Hua Kuo (National Yang-Ming University), Harilal Madhavan (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research – Thiruvananthapuram), Makiko Matsuo (The University of Tokyo, IFI)

Chair:

Jean-Paul Gaudillière (EHESS-CERMES3)

 


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