Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Making Science Moral: The Story of Data in Postwar North Korea

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Coolidge, Mezzanine Level

The atomic bombings that marked the end of the Second World War were followed by parallel occupations on the Korean peninsula, under which North and South Korea dedicated themselves to the task of weaving new national narratives that re-framed their colonial past and envisioned their utopian futures. In both future visions, science and technology were the means through which economic goals would be met and military, political, and social ideals achieved. In North Korea, the investment in science and technology revealed itself in young reader magazines that made banal the exceptional power of nuclear energy, and made the natural world knowable and accessible through formulas and data. At the same time, these magazines showed a particular interest in the relationship between the individual/collective, and youth/nature, and re-configured these relationships in moral terms. Scientific knowledge, which was critical to postwar reconstruction, had to be framed by, and injected with, strong moral guidance to assure accurate and appropriate applications of the technical and scientific knowledge in order to “arm” young readers with a correct view of the world. The moral configuration of the scientific and technological was made possible not by raw data but through textual and visual narratives that turned data into stories. This paper argues that moral restructuring was the ground zero of social and economic reform, and that storytelling was recognized as the best way to shape the most elusive frontier of all: the imagination of the young.

Dafna Zur

Stanford University, California

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