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Aaron S. Moore

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[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] We tend to understand the modernization of Japan as a story of its rise as a techno-superpower. In East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan’s Wartime Era, 1931-1945 (Stanford University Press, 2013), Aaron Stephen Moore critiques this account in a study of the relationship between technology and power in the context of Japanese fascism and imperialism. Moore traces the emergence of a “technological imaginary” in wartime Japan, exploring how different groups (including intellectuals, technology bureaucrats, engineers, and state planners) invested the term “technology” with ideological meaning and power in the course of discussing and shaping national policy. Paying careful attention to the ways that technological and colonial development co-produced and challenged each other, Moore’s story respects the archives of both text and practice: the book deeply cuts into into the intellectual history of technology in the context of Japanese empire, while also following the activities, material difficulties, and large-scale products of many thousands of engineers as they traveled to Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China to build roads, canals, ports, dams, cities, irrigation, sewage and water works, and electrical and communications networks. It is a fascinating case study that informs a larger global historiography of the modern technosciences, while also using the social study of technology to extend the historiography of Japanese empire.

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