Jongmin Lee

Engineering and Society
University of Virginia

2015 to 2016
Research Fellow

Rayon: Poisoned History of Empowerment

My project investigates how producing and consuming rayon created a new category of “man-made material,” redefined health at the workplace, and influenced labor and social movements in two societies. Using a diverse set of collections at the Hagley Museum and Library and Smithsonian Institution, I investigate the social history of the textile industry from cellulose extraction to land contamination to understand how carbon disulfide poisoning and wild strikes empowered women workers and how labor and environmental politics transformed American society in the 1930s and South Korean society in the 1980s. A Research fellowship will help greatly in comparing poisoned histories of rayon production and consumption in two countries and enhancing our understanding about the increasing use of chemical material and its social impacts on health, the environment, and the broader society.