- Engineering Asia: Technology, Colonial Development and the Cold War Order ed. by Hiromi Mizuno, Aaron S. Moore, and John DiMoia
As I was preparing this review for publication, I received the news that Aaron S. Moore passed away unexpectedly. He made me a better scholar of Japanese history and the history of technology. He made the fields of modern Japanese history and the history of technology more ambitious, more exciting, and more humane. Thank you, Aaron. I will miss you.
Engineering Asia: Technology, Colonial Development and the Cold War Order is one of the most important edited volumes to come out in recent memory. The volume argues that the ideology of developmentalism enabled the rise of postcolonial nation-states in cold war Asia at the same time that it facilitated the re-establishment of prewar and wartime hierarchies. The chapters analyze a wide range of topics, including the history and politics of Japanese overseas development aid and large-scale infrastructure projects, networks of scientific knowledge production in East and Southeast Asia, and the transnational history of agricultural science in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Overall, the volume shows that a binational, U.S.-centric approach does little justice to the history of empire, science, and technology in cold war Asia. Instead, the volume shows how developmentalism served as the common ground for a multilateral politics of state formation and economic power in cold war Asia.
Engineering Asia contributes to multiple fields. The most explicit contribution is to the field of postwar East Asian history, with an emphasis on postwar Japanese history. The volume is part of a recent turn in Japanese history that examines connections between East and Southeast Asian history, especially in Japanese-language scholarship. What may be unique about Engineering Asia is that it analyzes the formation and reformation [End Page 192] of the relationship between Japan, East Asia, and Southeast Asia across the wartime and postwar periods, replacing the standard teleology of "end of empire" with "transformation of empire." Focusing on "trans-war networks of technology," chapters by Hiromi Mizuno, Aaron S. Moore, Jin Sato, and Masato Karashima show how Japanese scientists, politicians, and intellectuals used their colonial experiences to rebuild political and economic relationships with Southeast Asia in the postwar era. Particularly significant in this regard is the role that Japanese scientific and technical knowledge played in the building of postcolonial states in Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand through large-scale infrastructure development projects and other forms of aid that began in the 1950s (rather than the 1970s, as the story has traditionally been told). In one of the volume's most interesting chapters, Eric G. Dinmore analyzes how the cold war shaped the rebirth of the Indonesian petroleum industry in the 1950s and 1960s. As Dinmore demonstrates, Japanese and Indonesian policymakers' "production sharing" approach to petroleum extraction created new tensions within the U.S. cold war bloc and contributed, ultimately, to the overthrow of the Sukarno government in 1965 and transformation of Japan into a major source of funding for the subsequent Suharto government.
In an East Asian frame, the volume shows how science and technology promoted economic nationalism in formerly colonized regions of Asia, such as Korea and Indonesia; and how economic nationalism and cold war ideology institutionalized new circuits of knowledge transfer and research. Tatsushi Fujihara's and Tae-Ho Kim's chapters on rice breeding, for example, trace a transnational, transwar history of agricultural science that shows how the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines became a hub of agricultural scientific research in the 1950s and 1960s with significant outcomes for political and agricultural practices in Korea, Japan, the United States, and Taiwan. Manyong Moon situates the establishment of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology at the interstices of Korean nationalism and U.S.-Korea-Japan foreign relations during the Vietnam War era. John P. DiMoia highlights how experience with construction management during the Asia-Pacific and...