This course is an exploration of Japan's imperial project from roughly 1890-1945. We will start by developing a critical theoretical vocabulary with which we will then focus on three recent and important books on Japanese imperialism in East Asia. At the end of the semester we will also look briefly at anti-imperial and decolonization movements as well as the status of the category of 'empire' for analyzing the postwar period.
Stolz, Robert P.
This course is an introduction to historical study and the history of the recent Fukushima tsunami and reactor meltdowns in March 2011. This course has three goals. One, to introduce you to the historical record of disasters in Japanese history. Two, to introduce you to the emerging field of disaster studies. Three, to get you to start reading texts of all kinds for the categories and concepts that a given text uses to think through a "disaster."
This course is an introduction to the politics, culture, and ideologies of Modern Japan. While still a 2000-level course covering the years 1800-2000s, we will focus on four major "moments" in modern Japanese history: The Meiji Ishin 1850-90, The Crisis of Nation-State-Capital, 1920-45, and the formation of postwar capitalist society, 1955-89, and the collapse of the Bubble Economy and the "Lost Decade" 1995-.
What is the status of the past? In other words what is the point, if there is one, of studying history? In the end or even in the moment does it matter? If it does, how and why does it matter? These are big, basic questions we will be asking as we study the ways in which WWII is remembered, or forgotten, in Japan. Like all historians we will, of course, be interested in getting the facts of the past right, but as we will quickly learn, much of the interesting work starts once the facts are known. This suggests that history is by its very nature much more than a detective story, that there may be inevitable political and ethical aspects to the study and writing of history. We will take on these huge issues at the level of both theory, and everyday life, as a way to deepen our senses and alert us to the presence of the past in present politics, identities, and even embedded in our everyday language.
Grading is based on participation, in-class writing, two papers, a group project, and an individual assignment exploring topics for further research beyond this class. There will be no in-class mid-term or final.
When did the samurai become Japanese? It’s not as absurd a question as it seems. No good samurai would have considered himself “Japanese” in 1100, or 1400, or even 1700. A loyal servant of a one’s lord or a member of a warrior family, perhaps, but surely not “Japanese.” In fact, a good case can be made it was not until 1899 when the book Bushido, The Soul of Japan was published that the samurai became Japanese. Even stranger, this means that the samurai became Japanese three decades after the last one ceased to exist. How—and why—did this happen? The secret lies in the ideology and practice of the nation-state, a new form of identity so powerful that once it starts it, reaches back into the past and rewrites it in its own image, telling the story of itself to itself. In the process even those good samurai of 1100, 1400, and 1700 became Japanese. And this is just one of the nation-state’s many tricks. We’ll study this trick specifically in week nine. Before and after that we’ll have many chances to uncover and reveal other hidden historical accidents, mistakes, slippages, and contingencies in something so seemingly natural and obvious as national identity. One more from week four: Why is it so important to serve beef prepared according French recipes when the Duke of Edinburgh is coming to visit?
Using Japan’s transformation from the samurai warrior government to a modern nation-state in 1868, we will constantly move back and forth between general theories of nationalism and national identity and the concrete experience of Meiji Japan as a way to interrogate the rise of both the nation-state of Japan and its location within a global system of nation-states. In the process we will explore the concepts of national borders, the idea of national progress, the invention of national culture, forms of government and representation, the struggles over national identity, managing populations, and the role played by coincidence, contingency, accidents, ideology, and violence in the whole process.
There will be occasional in-class writing, a review paper, another short paper, a group bibliography project, and a final take-home paper.