EAP launches initiative on contemporary Japanese thought

Contemporary Japanese Thought graphic

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

EAP director Pedro Erber will lead the Contemporary Japanese Thought Initiative. Erber is graduate field faculty in Romance studies, Latin American studies, Asian studies, and comparative literature.

“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.”

Launched in October, the initiative’s speaker series will continues with Brian Hurley, assistant professor of Japanese literature, film, and culture at Syracuse University, speaking about the novelist Haruki Murakami and neoliberalism (date to be announced). 

On Oct. 18, William Marotti, professor of Japanese history and chair of the East Asian studies masters program at UCLA, spoke on “Violence, Glue-sniffing, Liberation: 1968 Japan.” Marotti looked back 50 years to a pivotal point in contemporary history in 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.” In his talk, Marotti considered the relation between a politics of violence and space, and the radical cultural politics of the moment, including art, theater, counterculture, and abject communities.

On Oct. 22, media theorist Thomas Lamarre of McGill University spoke on "Region as Method: Affective Media Geographies." 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 argued, 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.