A topography of bronze statuary in modern Japan
The foundation of the modern Japanese nation-state after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 demanded new methods for achieving social integration, creating a collective identity, and, ultimately, for securing the loyalty of citizens to the new central government. In previous research, the Tenno has been considered of paramount importance as a symbol of national unity and the central means of securing “loyalty and patriotism” (chukun aikoku). However, a close look at the utilization of public space–here taken literally as squares, parks, roads etc.–from the late Meiji era onwards reveals that the Tenno was only seldom utilized as a visual symbol. After his tours of the country in the 1870s and 1880s, he is rarely seen in person; his official photographs are kept mostly invisible behind curtains and visual representations of the Tenno are hard to find. How was the visual vacuum created by the absence of the Tenno in the public sphere compensated for?
Public space is regularly utilized by nation-states as an arena where concepts of “national identity” and national consciousness can be inculcated. In many Western and Asian nation-states, statues of founding figures and political leaders are commonplace. In many states–not only in authoritarian regimes with a strong personality cult–the figure most commonly depicted is the head of state or the monarch, in the form of public statues but also through other visual means such as coins, bills, postcards, and reliefs. This project addresses the question of how the medium of the (bronze) statue has been utilized in Japan to promote national integration since the erection in 1880 of the first (non-buddhist) bronze statue in Japan. Who took the initiative in creating this variant of “the politics of memory”? How can we categorize the bronze statues erected in the years that followed? What was the reaction of the population and the press? Was there a central political driving force behind the erection of bronze statues or was the process rather decentralized?
Results from this research are being made public on the statues section of my homepage:
In 2020, Men in Metal was published by Brill.
Pan-Asianism in modern Japanese history: ideology, politics, and international relations
Since the opening of Japan 1853/54, the question of whether Japan’s future should be Asian or Western, stood in the centre of political debates. How much modernisation along European lines was necessary to secure national independence; and how much Westernisation was possible without losing Japan’s identity? Fukuzawa Yukichi’s call to “Leave Asia, Enter Europe”; (Datsu-A nyu-o), that argued for a complete Westernisation of Japan, was harshly criticised by some influential intellectuals, politicians and ideologues, who were already demanding a return to Asia (Ajia-kaiki) during the Meiji period.
In the course of events, intellectual discourse on national identity and political discussions on national security proved to be closely interconnected. The most obvious manifestation of this was the growth of the ideology and the political movement of Pan-Asianism. Asianism, as an ideology shaping in the last decades of the 19th century, is still an influential force, but has not received much attention in historical research. This project aims at exploring how Pan-Asianism was adopted into politics during the Meiji and Taisho periods, how it developed into a political movement and finally how it became Japan’s foreign policy. Central concern will be directed at early pan-Asian ideologues like Sugita Teiichi and Tarui Tokichi, and pan-Asian societies such as the Toa-Dobunkai and the Kokuryukai, with their respective leaders Konoe Atsumaro and Uchida Ryohei.
Results of this research project have been published in various articles, book chapters and the volumes “Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History“ （近現代日本史におけるアジア主義） (Routledge 2007) and “Pan-Asianism. A Documentary history” （史料でよむアジア主義） (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011).
Controversies about historical memory, history textbooks and the politics of memory in contemporary Japan
In contrast to earlier chapters of the “History Textbook Debate” in Japan, the renewed discussions since the late 1990s have developed into a fully-fledged debate about history writing, historical memory, state and society in Japan, Japan’s place in the world and Japanese identity as a whole.
This project aims to explore the role of the military in Japanese history, in present society and within the political system; a dimension of these discussions that has probably not been given enough consideration in recent research. The project will not only analyse debates on the history of the Japanese military and Japanese military expansion in Asia, but also other aspects that are closely connected to this historical questions, such as the discussions on Japan’s foreign policy, the revision of the constitution, and the role of the individual and civil society in present-day Japan.
Results of this research project have been published in various articles, the volume “Politics, Memory and Public Opinion (政治と世論における歴史記憶：日本の歴史教科書問題の社会的背景)” and the volume “The Power of Memory in Modern Japan (近現代日本の歴史的記憶の諸相).”
Mutual Perceptions in Japanese-German Relations: Imaginations, Images and Stereotypes (2008-2011)
日独関係史における相互認識：想像、イメージ、ステレオタイプ (科学研究費補助金 基盤研究（Ｂ）)
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Research Project no. 20320116 (2008-2011)
This research project aims at exploring the development of mutual perceptions in Japanese-German relations and analyzing the influence of
the visual imagery through which these perceptions are expressed on the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Japanese-German
relations had their beginnings in the Prussian mission to Japan in 1860/61 and will soon be able to look back on a history spanning 150
The history of the relationship between these two major countries has been receiving increasing attention in academic research as well as
in the public arena, with new interpretations and assessments emerging.
However, previous research has focused strongly on diplomatic and economic relations between Japan and Germany. This project proposes studying the relationship from the perspective of “mutual images” – analyzing Japanese-German relations from the angle of mutual perceptions, with emphasis on the investigation of visual sources.
See nichidoku.japanesehistory.de and conference program for details.
Within the framework of this project, a volume on the Eulenburg mission 1860/61 has been published on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Japanese-German relations.
Zeremonielle Pädagogik in postrevolutionären Nationalstaaten (2004-2007)
Ceremonial education and national integration in postrevolutionary nation states
An analysis of national integration by the means of what is being called “ceremonial education” in post-revolutionary states, such as the Soviet Union, Mexico and Japan. Meiji period politics of national integration are analyzed with particular reference to practices such as mass ceremonies, festivals, and other integrative practices.
Meiji period politics of national integration are analyzed with particular reference to practices such as mass ceremonies, festivals, and other integrative practices.
DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft/German Research Foundation) Sonderforschungsbereich 640
Relationship and Networks of Social Groups in Japan in Japan during the Interwar Period (2003-2006).
The project aims at analyzing interrelationship and networks of social groups in Japan during the interwar period. The examination of the Japanese society as a case study for the formation of a new social order is to be approached by analyzing examples of social actors (voluntary associations, or intermediate organizations such as political parties, bureaucrats, military officers, religious groups, media, employers’ associations etc.), their relationships to other groups in society, and social networks, which took new forms during this period. The members of this interdisciplinary project come from various fields and are expected to take up a specific social, political or economic actor, analyzing its formation, its role in society, connections to other social groups, its social networks and social interdependence. I am analyzing the right-wing pressure group “Amur Society” (Kokuryukai) as a social network organization with decisive influence on the formation of an anti-democratic camp that prepared ground for the radical right-wing movement of the 1930s.
International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), Kyoto; research project coordinator: Prof. Inoki Takenori.
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