The Japanese Medical Empire and Its Iterations

John DiMoia, National University of Singapore

Hoi-eun Kim. Doctors of Empire: Medical and Cultural Encounters between Imperial Germany and Meiji Japan. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. 272 pp. $55 (cloth/ebook).

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As recently as the early 1980s, the literature in English concerning the broader transformation of East Asia as a space for emerging developments in science, technology, and medicine (STM) was dominated almost exclusively by works on imperial China. This is not surprising, given its considerable historical legacy as the dominant cultural force in the region. It was perfectly acceptable within the field, moreover, to treat neighboring countries within this Sinocentric framework, or at least to regard their cultural and historical indebtedness to China as one of their central features of interest. If I exaggerate the hegemonic force of China studies in the recent past to make a rhetorical point, I do so to mark the arrival of a great deal of newer scholarship concerning the transformation of the East Asian region since the nineteenth century, and arguably since at least the seventeenth century, particularly within the field of medicine—whether Western, “traditional” (a problematic term, admittedly), or even, in more complex cases, those practices embedded within a dense nexus of religious worship and healing. The work under review here, Hoi-eun Kim’s Doctors of Empire, provides a new and welcome addition to the growing literature on Meiji Japan, following in the tradition of a substantial body of previous work on scientific and technological accomplishments, including studies by James Bartholomew (1993), Tessa Morris-Suzuki (1994), and Morris Low (2005), among many others....