Kerry Shannon

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: University of California- Berkeley
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: South Asia
  • Dissertation Title: Cleanliness and Civilization: Public Health and the Making of Modern Korea and Japan 1870-1910
  • This project uses hygiene as a vehicle for reexamining the making of the modern Japanese empire and the making of Korea as a modern colony. Drawing from primary source material written in three languages, I show how public health and discourses of cleanliness played a central role in struggles for sovereignty as Koreans and Japanese contested descriptions of their backwardness by drastically reshaping their health practices, profoundly transforming the individual physical body as well as the collective body politic. In Korea and Japan, public health functioned as a vehicle for internally strengthening the state's somatic control over populations while externally broadcasting each nation's achievement of a higher level of civilization.
    I argue that, despite the coeval processes of hygienic modernization initiated in both countries, Japan gradually undermined and co-opted Korea's nascent public health system, perpetuating the discourse of Koreans' medical depravity as justification for the Japanese colonization of its peninsular neighbor in 1910. Through a comparitive approach that contextualizes the histories of Korea and Japan within each other, I contend that the modernities of these two nations were mutually constitutive.