Brown Bag Lecture: Market, Medicine, and Empire: Japanese Pharmaceuticals in the Early 20th Century

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Date: September 24, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Timothy Yang

During the first half of the 20th century, pharmaceuticals were intertwined with the fortunes of Japan as a nation and an empire. While scholars have analyzed medicine as either a “tool of empire” or a site of anticolonial contestation for colonized peoples, they have paid far less attention to medicine as an industry. This talk explores the interconnections between global capitalism, empire, and modern medicine through a micro-history of Hoshi Pharmaceuticals, the preeminent drug company in East Asia from the end of World War I through the years following World War II. By tracing Hoshi’s activities across Japan’s expanding empire and beyond, I explore how transnational pharmaceutical companies helped manufacture and sell Japan as a civilized, humanitarian empire, founded on middle-class consumerism, technocratic expertise, and the allegedly self-evident value of modern medicine.

Tim Yang is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Program on U.S.–Japan Relations at Harvard University. In the fall of 2014 he will be an assistant professor of history and Asian studies at Pacific University. He received an A.B. in history and Japanese from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. His talk is based on his recently defended dissertation, “Market, Medicine, and Empire: Hoshi Pharmaceuticals in the Interwar Years,” which examines the connections between global capitalism, empire, and medicine in modern Japan. A recent article of his appeared in East Asian Science, Technology, and Society.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

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