Séminaire : Usages techniques, objets élaborés et patrimoine culturel immatériel dans le monde chinois – Séance Japon

Usages techniques, objets élaborés et patrimoine culturel immatériel dans le monde chinois (C. Bodolec, M. Bussotti, F. Obringer)

Séance double consacrée au Japon : 12 mars 2015, 10h-13h,  EHESS, 190-198 av. de France (Salle 681 Elisabeth Allès)

ALEKSANDRA KOBILJSKI (Chercheuse associée, Centre Japon, UMR 8173 CCJ EHESS)

“Shipload of distinguished engineers”: Engineering internationalism and the 1929 World Engineering Congress in Tokyo

 The nineteenth-century witnessed and was marked by the emergence of a set of discrete, though interre- lated networks of expertise. By the turn of the twentieth century, despite national specificities, professional groups on different continents started increasingly resembling one another, were subject to similar kinds of pres- sures, and held similar aspirations. This presentation uses World Engineering Congress in Tokyo in 1929 as site to explore the intersections between the project of engineering as envisioned by the US and the emergence of engineering as a socio-professional category in modern Japan. Exceptional even in the context of the 1920s spree of bilateral and transnational professional meetings, the Tokyo engineering congress was held on an unprece- dented scale. It took place over a period of two weeks in the fall of 1929 and attracted some 3500 participants representing 43 countries. For a significant portion of foreign participants, the travel to Japan alone took more time than the duration of the conference itself. Yet, because it ostensibly failed in its pronounced goals, the con- gress remains a neglected episode in history of engineering in modern Japan. Opening on the day of the Wall Street crash which will lead to the Great Depression, the meeting could be seen as the last gasp of Wilsonian- style internationalism before Japan’s engineers became willing architect of empire’s expansion into Manchu- ria after 1931. Leaving aside the question ‘success and failure’ and using diary notes of participants, this presen- tation examines the event in terms of how it was lived by some of its delegates.

AARON STEPHEN MOORE (Arizona State University)

The Yalu River Era of Constructing East Asia: Technology and Japanese Imperial Power on the Colonial Borderlands

Colonial Manchuria and Korea witnessed Japan’s first actual instances of what became known as “com- prehensive national land planning,” which was a dominant developmental paradigm during Japan’s post-war high-speed growth era. This talk explores the formation in Japan of a certain type of technical rationality emerg- ing worldwide in the 1920s and 1930s—the idea of “comprehensive technology” (sōgō gijutsu) or transforming nature and society into an efficient, optimal system whereby each part somehow contributes to other parts of the whole in mutually reinforcing ways. While research has shown that introducing advanced science and technology were essential to Japan’s colonial enterprise, there is a need for more work that goes beyond the plans of engineers, businessmen, and bureaucrats. I argue that an uncritical reliance on their materials can lead to reproducing their ideology of technocratic expertise overcoming nature in our work. This itself was an essential technique of Japanese imperial power and in post-war development discourse throughout East Asia. Through a case study of Sup’ung Dam and the related Dadong Port Coastal Industrial Plan on the Manchuria- Korea border, I will therefore examine the specific practices, conflicts, and negotiations among different actors, institutions, and forces in the colonies that went into the formation of “comprehensive technology” in order to reveal how technocratic planning discourse naturalized itself as a coherent, rational, and progressive force. I’ll conclude by discussing the importance of de-naturalizing the discourse of comprehensive planning since it con- tinued to hold sway as Japan became a global developmental power in the post-war.

Dans le cadre de l’axe de recherche transversal : Techniques, objets et patrimoine en Chine, en Corée et au Japon (XVIe-XXIe s.) (TOP) de l’UMR 8173 Chine, Corée, Japon

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