“Breast Illnesses in Korean Medicine, 1800s–1930s”
Soyoung Suh, Dartmouth College
Thursday, February 27
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
918 International Affairs Building
Co-sponsored by Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, Academy of Korean Studies; Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
This presentation explores how Koreans defined and experienced breast illnesses, including cancer, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When Eastern and Western knowledge began to intertwine and the new and the old practitioners of medicine competed for authority, how were deadly breast tumors understood and treated? Analyzing both scholarly and popular writings, this talk examines the origins and modification of centuries-old terminologies, preferred prescriptions, and diverse therapeutic solutions of life-threatening breast illnesses. In particular, this presentation focuses on sudden transitions as a framework through which we consider the possibilities and limitations of female agency as patients and healers. Manifested in the intellectual and material conditions of experiencing breast cancer, this suddenness enables us to contemplate the gendered medical culture of modern Korea.
The talk series will explore how material, cultural, ideological, and political changes that took place during Korea’s transitions from Japanese empire to U.S. military occupation to postwar Korea influenced and were influenced by people’s lives; how these changes constructed multiple identities from gender, family, and class; and how indigenous and modern elements were selected and used in constructing these new individual and collective identities in Korea during the first half of the 20th century. In doing so, the talk series will revisit the tensions, compromises, and conflicts of diverse identities in both the colonial and postcolonial contexts through the three scholars’ respective analyses of family civil law cases, medical practices, and Korea’s transwar society.
Soyoung Suh is an Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College. After receiving her doctoral degree from the University of California in Los Angeles in 2007, Professor Suh spent one year at Harvard University as a Post Doctoral Fellow in the “history of modern science and technology in East Asia.” She was also affiliated with the University of Westminster in London collaborating in a research project entitled “Treating the Liver: Towards A Transnational History of Medicine in East Asia, 1500-2000” funded by the Wellcome Trust. Her articles are published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, Asia Pacific Perspectives, Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, and Korean Journal of Medical History. Her first book entitled Naming the Local: Medicine, Language, and Identity in Korea since the Fifteenth Century was published by Harvard University Asia Center in 2017. She is now interested in the transnational history of breast cancer, which will explore the origins of gendered medical culture in modern Korea.