Virtual Workshop Invitation: "The Socio-Material History of Masked Societies in East Asia." October 26, 2020

Jaehwan Hyun's picture
October 26, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Korean History / Studies, Japanese History / Studies, Chinese History / Studies

Dear Colleagues,  

I am delighted to invite you to our upcoming virtual workshop titled: "The Socio-Material History of Masked Societies in East Asia."  The workshop will take place online on  Monday, 26 October, 2020 at 11:00 CET. 

To register for the workshop, please send an email with your name and institutional affiliation to by 21 October, 2020. After registration is complete, you will receive a link for the Zoom session.  

Please find additional information below and on the MPIWG website:


With the COVID-19 outbreak, the interest in the mask-wearing culture of the “East” has been renewed. American and European media outlets portray East Asian countries as “masked societies” that have already used sanitary masks before the Corona pandemic. As Japanese historian Andrew Gordon points out, this type of commentaries tends to present mask-wearing as a “cultural norm” in East Asia and is grounded in unproved cultural essentialism that ignores its long global history. As a way of avoiding the pitfall of cultural essentialism, this workshop focuses on the socio-material dimensions of the history of mask-wearing in East Asia. Speakers look into the use and circulation of masks across national borders between East Asian countries and different social worlds within the countries. The shift of focus allows us to look at how the mask use is closely linked to heterogeneous but interconnected entanglements of environmental histories, political movements, scientific controversies, risk cultures, environmental governances, and quarantine regimes in those countries. 

Workshop Goals:

The purpose of the workshop is three-fold. First, it reviews the socio-material dimensions of the mask-use in different East Asian countries and challenges the current cultural essentialist view of mask-wearing practices in this region. Second, based on the work presented, participants in this workshop will develop common themes and questions that allow scholars to reconsider the current picture of the history of life sciences (including biomedicine, environmental regulations, and environmental sciences). Third, it promotes collaboration between East Asian scholars interested in the material dimension of the mask-use and encourages them to make a basis on long-term cooperation for the future. 

Organizer:  Jaehwan Hyun