Focusing on Japan from the 19th century onwards, this workshop investigates some issues related to water in its various forms. Rivers, rainfalls and seas encompass their own changing ecologies. Depending on one’s perspective, water can either be seen as a hydrological threat or as a vital element for everyday life and a benefit for agriculture. Water can provide a way to move away the wastes produced by industry but it can also serve as a channel bringing in and spreading unwanted pollution. Waterways and oceans produce frontiers that can hinder or enhance the exchanges between societies. In the same way, natural currents shape the flows of goods and people. The Meiji period deeply changed the Japanese society, marked an increase in the exploitation of natural resources and strengthened the industrialization process. These dynamics went on during the Taishō and Shōwa eras, with their own specificity, as this timeframe saw the building, the expansion and the collapse of the Japanese empire. Through a few case studies, this workshop aims at providing a better understanding of the changes and continuities in Japanese history throughout the Modern period from the perspective of water.
Convegni e workshops
Water, Waterways and Seas in Modern Japan
Perspectives of Environmental History
Prior registration is required → email@example.com
30 maggio 2020 9:00
Japan’s Ocean Borderlands
Nature and Sovereignty
This lecture will be available only on Zoom
27 maggio 2020 18:00
Some of Japan’s most far-flung islands are also its smallest: tiny specks of rocks surrounded by storm-tossed oceans, covered only in birds and bird shit, and yet freighted with political, economic and symbolic importance out of all proportion to their size. But how did these islands come to be Japanese in the first place? And how have they remained so?
Most of Japan’s outlying islands were first annexed during the late nineteenth century, when a motley crew of bird hunters and guano prospectors convinced the government that they would make viable sites for colonisation. Yet all attempts at settlement eventually failed, and since the end of World War II ornithologists have lobbied for the abandoned islands to be turned into nature reserves instead. To do so, they have tapped into broader postwar anxieties about territorial loss and Japan’s place in the global order – concerns that reverberate to this day. In this talk I explore how attempts to shape the environments of remote islands such as Izu-Torishima, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the Diaoyu/Senkaku/Islands have also helped shape the contested borders of the modern Japanese state.
Paul Kreitman is Assistant Professor of 20th Century Japanese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He received his PhD from Princeton in 2015, and is currently completing a monograph on the environmental history of Japan’s desert islands, slated for publication with Cambridge University Press in 2021. An extract from his second project, on the political ecology of excrement in wartime Japan, has been published in Environmental History. His writing has also appeared in The Japan Times, The New Statesman and The Diplomat.
Gesaku Literati and Early Meiji Print Culture
Remaking Popular Culture for the Masses
This lecture will be available only on Zoom
22 aprile 2020 18:00
The Meiji Restoration of 1868 set in train a major reconfiguration of not only the political structure of government but also the world of letters, aecting not just academic elites but also the demimonde literati and artists (gesakusha) who had enjoyed various forms of patronage under the Tokugawa regime.
This talk aims to expand the understanding of the practices relevant to gesaku in the early Meiji period by exploring the profound overlap between text, image and oral performance as well as the significance of the traditions of rakugo and kôdan in the early literary scene. The presentation also reviews the initiatives of early Meiji gesakusha who, in collaboration with nishiki-e artists such as Ochiai Yoshiiku and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, spearheaded the development of a distinctive genre of illustrated news, nishiki-e shinbun.
Finally, some attention will be given to the continued adaptation of this mode of collaboration in the minor newspaper format, particularly as seen in the Tokyo Eiri Shinbun, established in 1875, and later illustrated newspapers associated with the Popular Rights Movement such as the Eiri Chôya Shinbun and the Jiyû no Tomoshibi.
Alistair Swale is an Associate Professor in Japanese at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has written on the career and thought of Mori Arinori, as well as more broadly on the Restoration in The Meiji Restoration: Monarchism, Mass Communication and Conservative Revolution (Palgrave 2009). More recently he has been engaged in collaborative research at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto where he is completing a year-long project examining responses in popular culture to the “Civilization and Enlightenment” movement.
Art, Gender, and Community in an Age of Revolution
The Life of a Samurai Housewife and Artist in Kishu Domain, 1830-1880
Italian School of East Asian Studies
7 febbraio 2020 18:00
This presentation will focus on the life of Kawai Koume, an artist and housewife from a lower-ranking samurai family of Kishu domain (now Wakayama prefecture), from the 1830s through the 1870s. Using this female and regional perspective, the presentation will examine the lived experience of upheaval, conict, revolution, and social and political transformation. It will focus in particular on what it meant to be a female artist in the samurai community of Wakayama castle town, both before and after the Meiji Restoration. Topics to be introduced will include a portrait of the samurai, merchant and artisan communities of Wakayama; a discussion of the education and opportunities open to samurai women of Kishu domain; and an analysis of the cultural and social environment of female artists like Koume. The presentation will argue that the social and political transformations of the bakumatsu and early Meiji periods created both opportunities and challenges for a female artist, to which Kawai Koume attempted to adapt with mixed success.
Simon Partner is Professor of History at Duke University in the USA. His interest in Japanese history ‘from the bottom up’ has led him to focus on the lives of little-known individuals – farmers, workers, merchants, and housewives. He has published four biographies based on this research, most recently The Merchant’s Tale: Yokohama and the Transformation of Japan (Columbia University Press, 2017). He is currently a Visiting Research Scholar at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), where he is working on a history of the Restoration era as seen through the life of Kawai Koume.
Environmental Expertise in Modern Japan and the Ashio Copper Mine Case
Italian School of East Asian Studies
29 gennaio 2020 18:00
The Ashio copper mine incident is one of Japan’s first and most famous industrial pollution cases. An industrialist close to the government took charge of the mine in the Tochigi Prefecture mountains at the end of the 1870s. The mine was modernized and extensively worked until, less than fifteen years later, it was fulfilling a third of the nation’s copper needs. The exploitation of this copper deposit on an industrial scale lead to environmental contamination that spread across five prefectures. In response, a protest movement arose that lasted for almost two decades.
The protest movement forms the major part of the case’s historiography. However, while benefiting from its findings, this talk will rather concentrate on the government and the measures it took to handle the social and ecological crisis. Among others, the establishment of pollution investigation committees in 1897 and 1902 is particularly informative, as the process of legitimization towards a public opinion increasingly aware of the events leant largely on data gathered and created by the ocial representatives of fast-growing disciplines (agronomy, medicine, engineering, etc.). Despite its importance, such process of legitimisation-by-scientific- knowledge has been, until now, barely studied.
Cyrian Pitteloud is a research fellow at the University of Geneva and at the École Française d’Extrême Orient in Kyoto. He studied History and Japanese studies at both Geneva and Lausanne universities, and, from 2012 to 2019, he was teaching assistant at the Japanese Unit of the University of Geneva. In November 2019, he completed his Ph.D. He has published a few articles and book chapters about the protest movement against the pollution of the Ashio copper mine, and translated various primary sources in Souyri P. F. (ed.), Japon colonial 1880-1930. Les voix de la dissension, ed. Belles-lettres, 2014.