Addictive Stimulants in an Age of Global Capitalism: History and Biotechnology of the “Always On” Self in East Asia

Oct 30, 2019 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Doogab Yi (Associate Professor in the Program in History of Science at Seoul National University; Harvard-Yenching Institute-Radcliffe Institute Joint Fellowship recipient)
Chair/discussant: Victor Seow (Assistant Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Asia Center

This interdisciplinary and comparative talk intends to examine the contemporary history of biomedical and pharmacological technologies for manipulating and improving human beings. This project is in its very early stages, so in this talk I will try to discuss an analytic framework for examining the history and biotechnology of the “always on” self in East Asia. I then briefly examine how a broad array of addictive stimulants, such as nicotine, psychedelic drugs, and other caffeinated products, have been actively developed, used, and often abused so that human beings would remake themselves more amenable to both the demands of capitalistic work discipline and constant consumption in an age of global capitalism. I will ask: what happens in our lives when human beings have been constantly asked to augment, enhance, and even remake themselves? How have recent developments in neurosciences and biotechnologies broadened the scope of human manipulation, which includes addictive stimulants, mental enhancements, and sleep control? When happens in our identity when we cannot address our inability, inflexibility, and unproductivity?