EVENT | Microbes & Sustainability/ Fermentation in 20th Century East Asia
Published: 8 November 2023
The Sustainability IRT invited Victoria Lee to discuss their work, The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan.
Date: Tuesday 21 November 2023
Location: St. Andrew's Building room 227
Lee's book The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan explores using historical methodology the challenges of controlling microbes for achieving sustainable growth. It looks at fermentation science in twentieth-century Japan, in a society where microbes were distinctively known and used as living workers as much as pathogens, as a direct precedent to the more recent recognition of microbial ecologies as an inseparable part of human society in Europe and America. New developments in biology, agriculture, and industry in recent decades suggest that the traditional eradication-based approach to the microbial world is unsustainable, including in the fields of the microbiome, climate change, and green chemistry. To illuminate contemporary issues in microbiology and sustainability, this book draws inspiration from philosophical approaches to pluralism in science to use history as a comparative reservoir of possibility. It elucidates the role of science in shaping political economy through material culture, in order to nuance polarized narratives of the developmental state and social response, by focusing instead on the role of middle-level technical experts in the interplay between industrialization and human environmental impact in the modern period.
About our speaker:
Victoria Lee is an associate professor of history at Ohio University, USA. Her book The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan (Chicago 2021) won the 2023 International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize for the Best Book in the Humanities. She has been a fellow at the Institut d'études avancées de Paris and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her writings have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, NPR’s flagship programme All Things Considered, and Mediapart (France). A native of Toronto, Canada, she received her BA from Cambridge, her MSc from Imperial College London, and her PhD from Princeton University.
First published: 8 November 2023