Organized Panel Session
Thinking seriously about agricultural modernization poses challenging questions when one is writing the ecological history of East Asia. This panel discusses how to develop a new narrative of the ecological history of East Asia by incorporating agriculture. We chose the term “ecological” over “environmental” to go beyond the binaries of industrialization vs. environment/nature and of urban vs. agrarian. Agricultural modernization provides a critical reprisal to the conventional highlighting of “successful” industrialization in the face of colonial and global capitalist forces in East Asia. We propose a new approach to the history of ecology by taking seriously the role of farmers and agricultural scientists. Our panel consists of three papers (Korea, Taiwan, and Japan), all presenting from current research. Albert Park, writing a book on the ecological history of modern Korea, examines agricultural modernization efforts by the Chosŏn state in the late nineteenth century and challenges the conventional narrative that places the causes of environmental problems in post-liberation heavy industrialization in Korea. Hiromi Mizuno, using the motif of the Nitrogen Cycle, attempts to shift a focus away from humans to the flow of nitrogen as the critical locus of the interactions between humans and non-human agents in the history of the Japanese empire. Shuntaro Tsusu discusses the impact of agricultural modernization on women and children gatherers in colonial Taiwan, questioning the male farmer-centric narrative of colonial farming. Discussant Robert Stolz, an expert in ecological history of the Japanese empire, will respond to the panel question as well as individual papers.