Specialized Knowledge in Traditional East Asian Contexts: STS and the History of East Asian Science
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, 2010
- pp. 179-183
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Specialized Knowledge in Traditional East Asian Contexts: STS and the History of East Asian Science Yung Sik Kim Received: 25 February 2010 /Accepted: 7 March 2010 /Published online: 2 July 2010 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2010 1 “STS,” both the expression itself and the scholarly enterprise referred to by that label, has been very enthusiastically received in East Asia—Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China—in recent years. It is probably because the problems posed to society by science and technology have been perceived more acutely in this region. Modern science and technology, mainly developed in the West, was felt foreign or alien by the East Asian people, but it is now an important part of their daily life. As economic growth in East Asian region has largely relied on the power of modern science and technology, how to further advance this power while dealing with the social impacts brought by it has come to be a major concern of the states in this area. By bringing citizens' attention to the complicated relation between science and technology and society, STS serves the interest of East Asian states as promoter of science and technology with emphasis on current issues while coping with the problems of science and technology policy making. STS scholars also grasp an opportunity to fulfill their role as social critics of science and technology, which has penetrated and influenced the daily life of common people. This journal, EASTS, which began self-consciously as a scholarly vehicle devoted to the discipline of “STS” in East Asia, has thus far published “STS” studies of mostly modern or contemporary East Asia which, to a certain extent, shared a common experience of the spread of modern science and technology, first by the Westerners, and then by the Japanese (Tsukahara 2007). This seems to be natural as the subject “STS” itself began mainly with concerns of modern science and technology. One even has an impression that “STS” is a subject which deals only with topics and problems of modern science and technology and is not pertinent for those of the traditional period, especially in non-Western cultures. East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2010) 4:179–183 DOI 10.1007/s12280-010-9138-x Y. S. Kim (*) Program in History and Philosophy of Science, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-742, South Korea e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Yet, science and technology in the traditional period also can be studied by characteristically STS methods and concepts. In fact, there have been many STSinformed or STS-influenced works in the history of Western science in the premodern period, including the period of the Scientific Revolution (Shapin and Schaffer 1985; Biagioli 1993; Dear 1995). By studying the topics and aspects like the political dimension of science, the “local” science, patronage, knowledge vs. action, practice (experiment) vs. theory, scientific “space,” disciplines—“disciplinary maps” and classification of sciences—and so on, these works have deepened our understanding of the sciences and technologies studied by them and have broadened our perspective of the periods and societies in which such sciences and technologies existed and were practiced. This special issue was conceived to call attention to the possibility, and the challenge, of carrying out similar works on science and technology in traditional East Asia. We have invited a number of scholars to contribute studies on the history of science and technology in traditional East Asia that can be encompassed by the umbrella of STS, i.e., the studies that share the problems, issues, subjects, methods, concepts, assumptions, interests, approaches, attitudes, or styles with the standard works in the STS. The common theme for these studies was defined very broadly as “Specialized Knowledge in Traditional East Asian Contexts.” 2 Knowledge in various specialized subjects existed in traditional East Asia. They were not restricted to what can be considered today as “science” or as “science and technology.” Such “scientific” subjects as calendrical astronomy (曆), harmonics (律), mathematics (算), and medicine (醫) and such “technical” subjects as techniques (工), agriculture (農), and horticulture (圃) were often mentioned together with subjects that cannot be called “scientific” today: divination (占卜), alchemy (煉丹), and geomancy (風水), for example, and such non-scientific subjects as criminal justice (行刑), financial administration (財政), military strategy (兵法), and taxation (稅務). On...