Session Abstract: The papers in this panel interrogate the concept of “everyday technology” in post War Asian history. Drawing upon evidence from China, India, and Japan, they illustrate how local work in realms as diverse as hydraulic management, furniture manufacturing, and data collection had wide-ranging economic, political and socio-cultural implications. In doing so, the papers pay as much attention to questions of innovation and creativity as they do to cultures of maintenance, repair, and refurbishment. Bringing together this diversity of perspectives—both geographic and thematic—will generate a fruitful dialogue on the place of (everyday) technologies in Asian history.
Moving past narratives that have focused on large-scale dam building, Ghosh examines people's handbooks to illustrate how small-scale dams and reservoirs were constructed and maintained by villagers in 1950s China. Teasley then asks how new machines and techniques of mechanization were localized in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s, revealing consumer and user interest but also resistance to promises of technological innovation. Moving to 1950s India, Menon traces the role of the state and state-sponsored statistical work in measuring and evaluating people's everyday material lives. Statistics, he shows, became an everyday technology everyone had to contend with. While each of the first three papers deals to varying degrees with the introduction of new technologies, Altehenger explores the revival of individual carpentry work in the PRC during the 1960s and 1970s to demonstrate how traditional technologies of furniture manufacturing and repair became subjects of state sponsorship and criticism at the same time
Paper Presenter: Arunabh Ghosh – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Nikhil Menon – University of Notre Dame
Paper Presenter: Sarah Teasley – School of Design, RMIT University
Paper Presenter: Jennifer Altehenger – Oxford University