2019 Tarr Article Prize awarded to David Fedman

The selection committee for the Joel Tarr Envirotech Article Prize is pleased to announce this year’s winner:

David Fedman, “The Ondol Problem and the Politics of Forest Conservation in Colonial Korea,” Journal of Korean Studies 23, no. 1 (March 2018), DOI 10.1215/21581665-4339053

Focusing on the ondol — the cooking stove-cum-heated floor system common in traditional Korean dwellings — David Fedman’s compelling article introduces readers to a little-studied technology whose history has broad implications for our understanding of the intersection of technology, environment, and identity. With the help of an impressive array of Japanese and Korean sources, Fedman shows that the ondol was a critical node in early-twentieth-century discussions about domestic energy efficiency, forest conservation, and the differences in culture and character that supposedly separated Koreans from their Japanese colonizers. The ondol’s legions of early-twentieth-century critics accused it both of wasting valuable timber and of encouraging indolence, but such criticisms did not lead to its abolishment. Instead, the article demonstrates, they drove forestry officials and others to encourage various methods of fuel conservation, some of which involved fundamental changes to the way Koreans designed their homes and prepared their meals. By combining the histories of technology, environment, and colonialism in innovative ways, Fedman’s examination of the ondol offers a model for scholarship linking quotidian technologies within the home to environments beyond it.

Tarr Prize Selection Committee:
Etienne Benson, University of Pennsylvania
Camille Cole, Yale University
Aleksandra Kobiljski, CNRS

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