Research Projects

Envisioning Modernity: Technology and the Making of East Asia: 19th – 21st centuries

(Funded under Seed Fund for Incubating Group-based Collaborative Research Projects – CRF, The University of Hong Kong)

Principal Investigator

Angela Ki Che Leung, Director and Chair Professor of History, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Joseph Needham-Philip Mao Professor in Chinese History, Science and Civilization

Total Fund Awarded

HKD 100,000

Project Duration

January 2015 – December 2016

Project Description

This project aims to reframe technology and modern East Asia: (a) Technology is studied beyond its commonplace definition as universal material practices for managing nature, in particular as material expressions of the symbolic and the ritual, transforming people’s subjectivity, aspirations and social relations in their everyday life. As such, modern technology is studied not as an external cause, but as a key component of East Asian modern transformation and of the region’s post-colonial experiences. (b) East Asia, as the framework for contextualizing modern technological processes, is an inter-connected region with permeable boundaries allowing flow of technological knowledge, processes and expertise in time and space. The project focuses on a core group of East Asian nations and cities comprising China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Singapore, a region held together by shared traditions — classical Chinese and knowledge including medicine, Buddhism as a popular religious system, and social and political principles loosely characterized as Confucian, a recent colonial past, and strong economic ties. But the diversity of sociotechnical systems in the region will also be taken into account to facilitate comparative examination of path-dependent dynamics of cross-border interactions over the past two centuries for a better understanding of the patterns that are currently unfolding.