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Kate McDonald – The Society of Wheels: Rethinking the History of Technology and Labor in Modern Japan
January 27, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Humanities 1, Room 210
Humans power transport. This is obviously true for the early twentieth century. It’s easy to find images of rickshaws on city streets in Tokyo and other major cities in Asia. But it’s equally true for the twenty-first century. Look no further than the parcel delivery workers sprinting up and down apartment-building staircases.
Despite the continuity of human power, explicitly human-powered technologies such as the rickshaw symbolize Japan’s past while the promise of automated transport systems such as parcel distribution and delivery symbolize Japan’s future. Why? This talk will look at how human power came to symbolize the past and how, in contrast, actual transport laborers have struggled throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to claim a place in the present.
Kate McDonald is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan (University of California Press, 2017). Together with David R. Ambaras (NC State), she directs the Bodies and Structures: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History project. This talk comes from her newest book project, The Rickshaw and the Railroad: Human-Powered Transport in the Age of the Machine.