Joining the department in fall 2021 is Professor Kang who works and teaches on early modern Korea and East Asia, with a focus on the history of science and technology, material culture, and global history.
His current book project, The Artisanal Heart: Craft and Experimentalism in Early Modern Korea, recasts the history of early modern science from the perspective of artisans and practitioners in Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910). It argues that from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, craftspeople in the military factories of Seoul developed a hands-on, experimental approach to investigating nature. Their experimentalism originated from the shopfloor—the artisanal practice of “prototyping.” But as it passed on from the army workshops to poetry associations and literati studios, it spread across society, prompting the rise of new practitioners who emphasized a bodily, experiential approach to knowledge. The book reconstructs for the first time this Korean artisanal science and expands our understanding of experiment and empiricism in the early modern world.
Other ongoing projects include a case study of Korean steamship construction and a history of arms smuggling in maritime East Asia. Kang is also working on two digital humanities initiatives: a new search platform featuring exploratory data analyses for Korean court annals and a biographical database of Chosŏn artisans.
His research interests encompass global history and the history of ritual and music as well. He has published on the Military Revolution, a debate about Western ascendancy in world history. A chapter he wrote on the Korean New Year celebration has also just come out in the Routledge Handbook of Asian Music.
Born in South Korea and raised in China and Guatemala, he received his B.A. in History and Music from Emory University and his Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University. Before joining the WashU faculty in 2021, he was a D. Kim Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University.