井の中の蛙

2/1/2005

Historiographical Triangulation

This could be good, or it could be awful. Or it might be a good first draft, but the effort certainly seems worth noting (emphasis added):

A middle school history textbook jointly written by scholars, teachers and historians of China, Japan and South Korea will be published in May, according to the Asahi Shimbun on Saturday.

The committee has been engaged in compiling the work since 2002 with the aim of establishing a jointly recognized interpretation of history among the three nations and prepare solutions for conflict over the past rather than engage in criticism.

“It is the first time the three countries have worked together on an account of history. It is not an exclusive description of history from a nationalist point of view, but a description for future coexistence that views history with an open mind and respects the opinion of each nation,” the committee said.

About 200 people, including teachers, scholars and civic group members, from China, South Korea and Japan participated in the work, holding a series of domestic and international conferences on the subject.

The textbook will deal with the 18th-20th century, when the Northeast Asian regions witnessed many ups and downs, including the rise of Japanese imperialism and World War II.

In its modern history of the three nations, the textbook details Japan’s colonial rule and resistance against it. The textbook will also present pieces by several scholars of the three nations, providing students with the chance to look into the opinions of each.

Because this project arose out of “an East Asia peace forum on history in Nanjing, China” I suspect more earnestness than precision. Because this is a journalistic description, I won’t take the apparent emphasis on Japanese colonialism to be the only focus of the book, though the existence of widely variant nationalistic narratives of the late 19th-early 20th century certainly justifies both the attempt to write this history as a committee and the need to provide the one-perspective essays which seem to me to dramatically complicate the reading for middle-schoolers.

Actually, I could imagine all kinds of ways in which collaborative history could result in heavily distorted narratives: an anti-communist narrative, for example (drawing on Taiwanese rather than mainland Chinese scholars), or a Marxist interpretation (perhaps less likely with South Korean participation: I don’t know whether South Korean academia shares Japan’s tendency towards oddly doctrinaire scholarship, but there are certainly leftists who could have been part of the process). It doesn’t sound like that’s what they’ve produced, though I would be very interested to see how they handled non-Asian involvement in Northeast Asian affairs.

I can’t tell if there’s an English-language version planned. Anyone want to sponsor a translation, or join a group translation project?

[Via HNN; Crossposted at Cliopatria]

4 Responses to “Historiographical Triangulation”

  1. Kmlawson says:

    I’m very interested in this project, it is a bit controversial. My advisor in Japan was indirectly involved. Some anti-revisionist scholars (Mitani at Todai) have written articles against this project before it was completed. This is not because he thinks the textbook will offer a distorted narrative. He believes this is just the kind of blood that the nationalist sharks will be looking for in Japan and that it will cause a storm in the media in their favor (“we are losing control of our own nation’s history in order to appease those crazy Koreans and Chinese”). He thinks it will spark a second round of textbook madness in Japan so opposes it on strategic, rather than historical grounds.

    I would be interested in helping out on such a project, though my time is limited so my contribution would have to be limited.

  2. [...] an’s leadership in Asia has been undercut since the war. Nowhere else in the world is historiography so central to political and international affairs: nobody denies Japan’s economic powe [...]

  3. [...] ducation — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:10 am The Tri-national textbook I wrote about here has been published. The South Koreans, at least, are taking it pretty seriously, with national distrib [...]

  4. webmaster says:

    I want a copy of your translation, and a Chinese/Japanese version, but I live in China and ….. you know the rest.

    Is this book available through Amazon?

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