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Science, Power, and Knowledge: East Asia to 1900 (CHINA 157, HISTORY 294J, JAPAN 157, JAPAN 257, KOREA 157, KOREA 257)


In the early modern period, East Asian societies featured long-established institutions of learning and traditions of knowledge. This course examines the relationship between knowledge and power in East Asia societies prior to 1900. It explores how knowledge production operated in late imperial China (1550-1900), Chos'n Korea (1392-1910), and Tokugawa Japan (1600-1868). Among the themes addressed are: the state's role in patronizing science and knowledge; major intellectual movements; engagement with Western science and religion; East Asian statecraft; and East Asian understandings of space and geography. nTaking a holistic perspective, it places science and technology in 1) a social and cultural context 2) in relation to other bodies and fields of knowledge 3) in comparison to other societies in a similar historical time period. A socially embedded perspective on knowledge and science seeks to appreciate how politics, society, and knowledge are integrated, and in particular how science and knowledge can be both instruments and sites of political power. By exploring these links, the course will also illustrate how our modern disciplinary categories of natural science,social science and the humanities cannot be taken for granted and the areas of knowledge they cover can be deeply intertwined. nnThe course will also address these issues historically and across geographic regions in East Asia and beyond. The comparative lens and frameworks these perspectives can offer will bring an awareness of the diverse traditions of knowledge production in East Asia. Its examination of East Asian encounters with Western paradigms of knowledge throughout the early modern period will also illustrate how communication occurs across cultural, social, and linguistic barriers and how diverse world-views were managed in these encounters. These encounters of knowledge-exchange between Jesuit missionaries, Ming literati, Korean aristocrats, and Japanese doctors also show how cultural identities were constructed, reinforced, and challenged. These identities, expressed through the mastery of knowledge, are essential for understanding how East Asian reckoned with growing pressures to adopt Western industrial technology and military science in the late nineteenth century.

Course ID: 
218 396
Letter (ABCD/NP)