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New initiative at EAP: Contemporary Japanese Thought

Modern Reflections Tokyo Japan by Mina Mikahil

Building on Cornell’s strong tradition in Japanese intellectual history, the East Asia Program is launching an initiative on contemporary Japanese thought that seeks to return attention to the place of Japan in the contemporary world.

Both peripheral and central to conceptions of the modern and post-modern, Japan has been a locus of global intellectual and artistic activity through the 20th and 21st centuries.

Pedro Erber, the new director of EAP and graduate field faculty in Romance Studies, Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, and Comparative Literature, will lead the initiative.

“East Asia occupies an increasingly central position in the global political landscape, which the old model of US-centric area studies is unable to address,” he said. “We at the East Asia Program look forward to the challenges this new moment presents.”

The Contemporary Japanese Thought initiative speaker series kicked off October 18th with the visit of William Marotti, professor of Japanese history and chair of the East Asian studies masters program at UCLA.

In “Violence, Glue-sniffing, Liberation: 1968 Japan,” Marotti looks back 50 years to a pivotal point in contemporary history and one of the global hotspots of civil and social upheaval. In January of 1968, violent confrontations between protesters and police in Tokyo and other parts of Japan transformed perceptions of state force and legitimacy, creating new political possibilities within a “global 1968.” The talk considered the relationship between the politics of violence and space, and the radical cultural politics of the moment, including art, theater, counterculture, and abject communities.

The series continued with a talk by media theorist Thomas Lamarre of McGill University. In "Region as Method: Affective Media Geographies" on October 22, Lamarre outlined the rise of what has been called "new television" or "media regionalism" in and from East Asia, showing how the popular anime Captain Tsubasa took on different meanings as it was distributed on various media networks in post-war occupation Iraq, a deregulated Italy, and other media structures. In regional television, he argues, distribution (infrastructure and technology) precedes and exceeds the production of contents or programs. Distribution, however, is not simply driving production but is productive in itself. 

The third and final talk in the Contemporary Japanese Thought series for the fall was held on November 28 and featured Brian Hurley, Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature, Film, and Culture at Syracuse University, speaking on the novelist Haruki Murakami and neoliberalism. 


Modern Japan by Shawn Clover