Conference Theme

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Crises and Entanglements
Science, Technology and Medicine in East Asia

The multiple crises besetting the contemporary world call for decisive interventions by historical research, including studies on the history of East Asian science, technology, and medicine. “Whiggish" ideas about the history of science have long been discarded and phantasies about an “end of history" have been laid to rest. Instead, recent studies have highlighted the entangled nature of the histories of science, technology, and medicine; identified the diverse actors involved in their production and circulation; and explored the multiple scales in which epistemic practices need to be situated. While opening up exciting and fruitful vistas, even these new approaches have rarely tried to expand our field to include a framework that systematically acknowledges the existence and persistence of crises that seem to threaten humanity's survival. 

Problems that may be addressed through such a framework begin with questioning to what extent science and technology have contributed to bringing about or intensifying such crises and extend to hopes and expectations that science, technology, and medicine may help to overcome them. No less important is the question of the role of entanglements in times of crises: how resilient is scientific and technological cooperation and how reliable are networks through which knowledge is generated and preserved?

If crises are conceptualized as being accompanied by major disruptions of social life, the question of how science, technology, and medicine operate under such conditions becomes a crucial problem. In fact, geographical, temporal, disciplinary, and intellectual entanglements have often played important roles in mitigating or overcoming crises. In this effort, maintaining cooperation and contact among scientific communities, probing historical precedents, and “thinking and acting outside the box" have been of great importance. Even if these responses within scientific communities could not solve crises by themselves, they were often able to suggest or pave the ways out of them. This conference encourages contributions related to this theme and aims to identify new approaches in the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia that do justice to the challenges of our age.