Jung Lee

Ewha Womans University, South Korea
Paris IAS
5 months



Research interests: History of technoscience, environmental history, historical changes.

Research Project

Resourceful Material Doing: situating the technoscience of material in the history of technoscience through the case of papermaking in Korea

Papermaking is a simple technique, when you write about the procedure: pulping the material, mixing it with water, lifting and molding the sheet with a screen, and drying and finishing it. Yet, when it comes to the hands-on material processes actually producing paper, its difficulties and complexities are visible in the browned and brittle paper sheets in old book stacks, which display great differences. Learning how to make paper involves a deep understanding of various materials, the substantial relocation of materials and skilled people, and a complex apparatus to enable their constant provision. Like replicating the TEA-laser, French artisans or northern Chinese or Qing Chinese artisans failed many times before they successfully reproduced Dutch, southern Chinese, or Korean paper, and they were often only partially successful.

Things themselves had much to say on these successes and failures, which is why the project analyzes "resourceful material doing" with a focus on what things and those people in close interaction with things had to say in the technoscience of paper. The technoscience seen through and with things as dictated by the term "re-source-ful" or its Chosŏn counterpart "kichiki the tool-machine, chi the wit" reveals the inadequacies of our ill-materialized understanding of technoscience, still bridled by hierarchical dichotomies between science and technology, traditional and modern, the West and the East, and the human and things.


Jung Lee is an assistant professor at the Institute for the Humanities at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea. As a historian of science and technology, her research has focused on history of botanical sciences and plant-based technologies in the Korean peninsula from its dynastic statehood to the early twentieth century, in its constant connection to its neighbors of China and Japan and the world beyond. She has held fellowships at the Needham Research Institute, Academia Sinica, and the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science.