Project Outline

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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
Mutual Perceptions in Japanese-German Relations: Images, Imaginings, and Stereotypes

平成20年度~22年度  科学研究費補助金 基盤研究(B)   課題番号 20320116 研究代表者 Sven SAALER (上智大学 国際教養学部 准教授) 
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Research Project no. 20320116 (2008-2011) Organizer: Sven SAALER (Jôchi University, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Associate Professor)

Project outline

This research project aims at exploring the development of mutual perceptions in Japanese-German relations and analyzing the influence of the visual imagery 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 years. 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.

In historical studies, visual sources have achieved considerable prominence in recent years, and some scholars have even proclaimed a “visual turn” in the humanities. In particular, “images of the other”, which have been strongly influenced by visual media, stand at the center of this approach; increasingly, studies of international relations are also making use of this methodology. Some researchers point out that, in an era of globalization, it is no longer appropriate to analyze international relations on a national level, i.e. relations between “country A” and “country B”. However, attempts to improve a country’s image abroad are still considered a high priority by many national governments; and, for many people today, images of “others” are still defined in terms of “national” perceptions and stereotypes. In many ways, directly or indirectly, the images of “others” and of “other countries” communicated by the media influence bilateral relations. Sometimes, these images and perceptions – or rather misperceptions – are even responsible for international incidents and tensions, as we have seen on several occasions in recent years. From this perspective, the significance for international relations of the development of national perceptions and their accompanying visual imagery, and their influence on the development of bilateral relations, seems clear.

Against this background, this collaborative research project proposes exploring the development of this mutual image-making in modern Japanese-German relations, from their beginnings until the present; the processes underlying the visualization of these images; and the changes such images have undergone, as well as key determining factors in the national and international framework. Further, the project aims to study the influence of these images on bilateral relations and their effects on mutual Japanese-German perceptions in the present day.

Main features of the project

1) Focus on mutual images in bilateral relations A major feature of the project is the concentration on mutual images in Japanese-German relations, on imaginations and stereotypes. In concrete terms, the project aims at addressing nineteenth century Japonisme in Germany, as well as the rhetoric of the “Yellow Peril”; the late nineteenth century Japanese perception (or argument) that Germany was a model for Japanese modernization in areas such as constitutional law, civil law, military organization, medicine and technology; the militarism debate from the period around World War I; the beautifying images of a “spiritual bond” between Germany and Japan, relating to a “natural alliance” or the “similarities in national character” during the 1930s; mutual images of economic recovery in the postwar media; the imagery used in discussions on “coming to terms with the past” in Japan and Germany; as well as images of the “other” during cultural events such as the “Japan in Germany year” and the “Germany in Japan year” held in the early 21st century.

2) Long-term analysis through cooperative research There is little previous research that has addressed similar questions of mutual images, such as the studies of Satô Takumi, Iwamura Masashi, Miyake Masaki, Muro Kiyoshi and Bill Maltarich. However, many of these studies are limited to the 1930s or concentrate on certain aspects of late-nineteenth-century Japanese-German relations. This project, however, aims at exploring the imaginings and the visual imagery of Japanese-German relations over a long period (longue durée), i.e. over the 150 years from the late Edo period to the early 21st century. By taking this approach, which is only feasible as a collaborative research project involving the most eminent scholars in the field of Japanese-German relations, this project aims at developing new perspectives and establishing new paradigms; identifying trends that have been overlooked by previous, individually conducted research; and, finally, constructing a comprehensive history of images, imaginings, perceptions and stereotypes in the modern history of Japanese-German relations.

3) Intensive use of visual materials While focusing on the analysis of “images” in the metaphorical sense, the project will also place special emphasis on the use of visual media, or “visual texts”, in pursuing the research goals set out above. To achieve this goal, scholars from related fields – such as the history of ideas, media studies, political science and the nascent field of the historical study of photography (shashin-shi kenkyû) – will be integrated into the research project and raise a wide range of relevant issues as well as contributing a very diverse array of analytic tools. While previous studies of Japanese-German relations have focused on archival research and textual interpretation as their main methodologies, leading to a strong focus on diplomatic history and the role of the economy, this project aims at extending the scope of inquiry to include primary visual source materials such as weekly and monthly journals and magazines, old photographs in relevant collections, commemorative postcards, woodblock prints and lithographs, cartoons and caricatures, historical paintings, war propaganda and state-issued pamphlets – but also school textbooks and encyclopedias as expressions of institutionalized knowledge, which was often depicted in visual form. While non-textual sources clearly have to be used in connection with textual sources, and despite the fact that they have been the subject of increasing interest in the international research community in recent years, in research into the history of international relations the utilization of visual sources has been notably lacking.

As a consequence of the growing international significance of the “history problem” in East Asia, lately the influence of “images of the other” in education has been receiving some attention in the study of Japanese-Korean and Japanese-Chinese relations. Also, some scholars of the history of Japanese-American and Chinese-American relations have included a consideration of “mutual images” in their research; examples are Akira’s famous “Beichû kankei no imêji” (The imagery of American-Chinese relations) and Sawada Jirô’s “Kindai Nihon no Amerika-kan” (Modern Japan’s Image of America). Further, MIT scholar John Dower has published groundbreaking studies in which he not only analyzed “mutual images” in U.S.-Japan wartime relations, but also made use of visual sources such as wartime propaganda movies (“War Without Mercy”). Dower also explicitly noted the insufficient use of visual sources in research when, in “A Century of Japanese Photography” (1981, Japanese original 1971), he wrote that “among Westerners, the historians of photography have neglected Japan, and the historians of modern Japan have neglected photography.” Dower is surely right in pointing to the insufficient use of visual materials for the study of international relations, if not the study of “other” cultures in general.
In recent years, a few studies have been published that mark the beginning of a systematic assessment and analysis of visual sources and the role of visual media in shaping “mutual images”, such as Sepp Linhart’s “’Dainty Japanese’ or ‘Yellow Peril’”; “Der Russisch-Japanische Krieg im Spiegel Deutscher Bilderbogen”, co-edited by the organizer of this research project; and “Impressions of an Imperial Envoy”, again co-authored by the organizer of this project. We can identify a clear trend in recent years towards the increasing consideration of visual sources in historical research on international relations and cultural encounters, and this project aims at taking up this trend and contributing to a systematization of research on “mutual images” in the field of the history of Japanese-German relations.

A project that requires collecting a wide variety of historical sources, many not easily accessible, as well as the analysis of materials spanning one and a half centuries, is best conducted as a group research project rather than as a series of individual efforts. While this project will, above all, rely on the cooperation of a number of historians who are well-known specialists in the history of Japanese-German relations, scholars from a broad variety of disciplines will also contribute to the project. Through such cooperative efforts, we will explore the development of “mutual images” through 150 years of Japanese-German relations and attempt to deconstruct various “myths” that are still commonly held in both countries. It is hoped that, as a result of this project, the influence of “mutual images” on the development of Japanese-German relations will be given increased attention and that a more balanced picture of the history of the two nations will develop in both academic research and popular discourse. The project organizer hopes that a comprehensive study of “mutual images” in Japanese-German relations will also stimulate interest in the role of “mutual images” and perceptions in the field of international relations as a whole and believes that the project, not least as a result of its strong emphasis on visual sources, will also generate a high degree of popular interest. This is one reason the final event in this project will be an international conference to be held in December 2010 to mark the 150th anniversary of the commencement of Japanese-German relations.

Research areas to be covered by members of the research group

1. The image of Prussia and Germany in late Edo Japan
2. Mutual perceptions of Germany and Japan during the late nineteenth century
3. Japanese-German perceptions during World War I: the “militarism debate”
4. Japan’s image of Germany and China’s image of Germany
5. Japanese-German mutual perceptions, 1933-45: the debates about “fascism”
6. Fast economic growth and Japanese and German corporate structures: Japanese views of Germany and German views of Japan in postwar economic literature
7. Studies of Germany’s “coming to terms with the past” and Japan’s “failure to come to terms with the past”
8. Mutual images and Japanese-German scientific exchanges
9. Mutual perceptions during the “Japan in Germany” year and the “Germany in Japan” year

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