Craft, Technology, and Material Culture in Early Modern Asia

Consisting of scholars of diverse disciplinary backgrounds from across North America and Asia, this group explores systems of artisanal knowledge and their social, cultural, and political significance in Asia from 1400 to 1800. An approach toward early modern science and technology through the lens of craft and material objects can lend itself to the study of diverse historical topics in both macro and micro-scales. Our group intends to build a flexible methodology of craft and materiality that can be used in the investigation of a wide range of research topics including knowledge production, artisanal community, statecraft, infrastructure, networks, commerce, environment, and foodways. We focus on the modality of craft – such as embodiment, skills, and oral transmission – as well as the material attributes of things as the locus of epistemic tension and technological appropriation through the study of texts, objects, and bodily practices. In addition, promoting perspectives of transnational, comparative, and connected histories, the working group will foster discussions about early modern empires, oceanic and silkroad connections, capitalism, migration, and border and frontier studies, which, to varying degrees, integrate (Eur-)Asia beyond the boundaries of the political states.


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Upcoming Meetings

  • Monday, December 13, 2021 9:00 am to 10:30 am EST

    Yulia Frumer, Making Time: Astronomical Time Measurement in Tokugawa Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2018), chapters 2 & 3.

  • Monday, January 10, 2022 9:00 am to 10:30 am EST


  • Monday, February 14, 2022 9:00 am to 10:30 am EST


  • Monday, March 14, 2022 9:00 am to 10:30 am EDT


  • Monday, April 11, 2022 9:00 am to 10:30 am EDT


  • Monday, May 9, 2022 9:00 am to 10:30 am EDT


Past Meetings

  • November 8, 2021

    For this meeting, we will discuss:
    Anne Gerritsen. The City of Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain and the Early Modern World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020, Chatper 9.
    Hodder, Ian. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, Chapter 5.

  • October 11, 2021

    In this meeting, we are going to read:
    Sennett, Richard. "Arousing Tools." The Craftsman. New Haven, UNITED STATES: Yale University Press, 2008.

    Barbieri-Low, Anthony. "Artisans in the Workshop." Artisans in Early Imperial China. First Edition edition. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007. 


  • September 13, 2021

    In this meeting, we are going to read two chapters to discuss the themes of "material" and "craft."
    - Tim Ingold, “Materials against Materiality,” Archaeological Dialogues 14, no. 1 (June 2007): 1–16,
    - Alexander Langlands, "Defining Craft," Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, First Edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018).

Group Conveners

  • kyoungjinbae's picture

    Kyoungjin Bae

    Kyoungjin Bae is James P. Storer assistant professor of Asian history at Kenyon College. She is an historian of everyday technology and material culture in early modern China. She received a Ph.D. in Global and International History from Columbia University and completed two postdoctoral fellowships at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Her book manuscript examines Cantonese cabinet making and carpenters’ knowledge during the eighteenth century.


  • Yijun.Wang's picture

    Yijun Wang

    Yijun Wang is Assistant Professor of History at New York University as well as a 2020-2021 ACLS-Luce China Early Career fellow. She is a historian of material culture, history of technology and gender in early modern China. Yijun is interested in the connections between knowledge, technology, power, and capitalism. Her book manuscript examines the transmissions of tin mining technology and changes in statecraft in China from 1700 to the 1850s.


  • Yulian's picture

    Yulian Wu

    Yulian Wu is Assistant Professor of the History Department at Michigan State University. She specializes in material culture, gender relations, and Manchu studies in early modern China. She published her first book, Luxurious Networks: Salt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China in 2017 (Stanford University Press). Her current project titled “Crafting Jade: The Construction of Objects and Empire in Eighteenth-Century China,” explores jade production and consumption in the High Qing period.


32 Members