井の中の蛙

12/6/2011

SHAFR Roundtable on Pearl Harbor (Plus HNN Bonus Article)

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:44 pm

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US at Pearl Harbor, the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations has published a series of essays on the event and historical memory issues; HNN has reprinted it (with a useful index post). John Gripentrog’s “The Road to War” is a solid discussion of the political and ideological differences which put the US and Japan on a collision course. HNN’s supplemental piece, by Rupert Colley, tracks how the attack brought the US into the European conflict. And Emily Rosenberg discusses how iconic attacks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and their rhetorical and cultural resonances.

Those are fine, but the articles I find most interesting are the other two. Greg Robinson writes about the effect of the Pearl Harbor attack on Japanese Americans at that time and the way in which it becomes part of the rhetoric of race and bias in the decades to come.1 Finally, Yujin Yaguchi describes an intercultural teachers’ seminar which brought together Japanese and American teachers with time to explore their biases, perspectives, and to encounter new ones. The historiographical issues aren’t terribly new to academic historians, but for teachers working in a national curriculum context, it was quite enlightening.

Update: This article by Jonathan Parshall and J. Michael Wenger is the first interesting new scholarship I’ve seen on Pearl Harbor in years. Mostly it’s about the development of the Japanese aircraft carrier group as an operational unit, an unforseen shift in naval tactics.

  1. The twitter chatter as the disaster this spring unfolded frequently, shockingly, referenced Pearl Harbor with a vicious karmic glee []

12/7/2010

December 7, 1941, Pittsburg, Kansas

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:50 am

One of our graduate assistants came in recently with an old newspaper that her husband had found on a deconstruction job. Considering that it was, apparently, stored in a wall for decades, the December 7, 1941 Pittsburg Sun was in fairly good condition: brittle, but almost entirely intact and clear. I didn’t want to force the folds into a flatbed scanner – the paper clearly isn’t going to survive too much handling, and the next step is to show it to our archivist – so I took some pictures with my camera to share.

Interestingly, we got an email today indicating that the Governor has declared today a half-staff day, in honor of the anniversary, so consider this our contribution to the remembrance.
Pittsburg Sun 1941 December 7 Evening - Detail 1 - Front Page Headlines Army Arrives Pittsburg
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12/29/2009

America’s “Lost Decade”

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:41 am

Paul Krugman wrote a column in which he argued that the last decade in the US has been a waste of time, economically speaking:

But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

It was a decade with basically zero job creation. …
It was a decade with zero economic gains for the typical family. …
It was a decade of zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early …
… it was a decade of zero gains for stocks, even without taking inflation into account. …
So here’s what Mr. Summers — and, to be fair, just about everyone in a policy-making position at the time — believed in 1999: America has honest corporate accounting; this lets investors make good decisions, and also forces management to behave responsibly; and the result is a stable, well-functioning financial system.

What percentage of all this turned out to be true? Zero.

What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.

Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.

So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing. Will the next decade be better? Stay tuned. Oh, and happy New Year.

My mother sent me the column, and I wrote back the following comparison:

It’s almost like we had the same Lost Decade that the Japanese had in the 90s, but in a much more dramatic fashion. They had the Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks; we had 9/11. They had the Hanshin Earthquake, we had Katrina; both triggered a discussion about emergency preparedness and civil society. They had a bubble burst and zero growth; we had several bubbles burst and, ultimately, zero growth.

Unfortunately, it’s very clear that Japanese leaders and citizens didn’t learn very much from the experience: it took almost another decade before a major change in leadership, and their economy remains extremely weak. Not a happy comparison.

5/5/2009

Film Festival

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 3:31 pm

Just received this from friends at the Japanese American National Museum:

The Japanese American National Museum is accepting film & video submissions for their Second annual ID Film Festival, a series of films that challenge and celebrate what it means to be Asian.

To take place from October 1-3, ID Film Fest will showcase both shorts and features to be screened digitally in the Democracy Forum, a state of the art theater in downtown Los Angeles.

ID Film Fest welcomes film and video works of all lengths and genres that challenge and celebrate what it means to be Asian and/or Asian American. Please direct all inquiries to ksakai@janm.org

To see the films that we screened at last year’s festival, visit http://www.janm.org/events/2008/idfilmfest/films/
Please send a one-paged synopsis of the work along with contacts (e-mail, address and phone), a short biography of the filmmaker and a DVD screener to the:

Japanese American National Museum
Attention: Koji Steven Sakai
369 E. First St.
Los Angeles CA 90012

There is no submission fee and no entry form is required. Submission deadline is AUGUST 1, 2009.

4/23/2009

A bounty of medieval symposia

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 9:40 pm

Premodernists, particularly those who focus on history, sometimes feel gloomy about the state of premodern Japanese studies in the U.S., where a number of large graduate programs have shrunk, disappeared, or fundamentally changed in emphasis in the past two decades. Some of us have even been known to eulogize the field, as if the heart of our collective endeavors had already stopped beating. Is the field more like a rotting corpse, or perhaps a mummified one? Have we been subject to cremation, leaving behind only bone fragments to be buried in an urn? Or was the corpse of the field left lying on the banks of the river, food for the crows and source of anxiety for locals, known as “wind burial”? (Thanks, PMJS!)

Two upcoming events prove that the rumors of the death of medieval Japanese studies were greatly exaggerated.
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4/14/2009

Samurai-related events, Bowers Museum

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 11:30 am

The Bowers Museum in southern California opens a new exhibition this Sunday, “Art of the Samurai: Selections from the Tokyo National Museum.” In conjunction, the museum is hosting a range of samurai-related events. Sword fetishists, get ready!

All lectures are free to Members and with paid admission unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, April 19
1:30 PM
OPENING DAY LECTURE:  ART OF A WARLORD, SHOGUN, AND DEITY:  TOKUGAWA IEYASU (1546-1616) AND THE POLITICS OF SAMURAI CULTURE
Dr. Morgan Pitelka, Chair of the Asian Studies Department at Occidental College and a cultural historian of pre-modern Japan, explores the art collecting, patronage, and memorialization of the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, the military regime that governed Japan from 1603 to 1868. Tokugawa Ieyasu was a collector of paintings and ceramics, a fan of the Noh theatere, a grudging participant in tea ritual, and a passionate devotee of falconry.

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5/13/2008

Big Book Sale at Columbia University Press

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:41 am

Some great bargains at the Columbia University Press White Sale with lots of offerings in Asian history and literature.

3/13/2008

Conference at the Huntington Library

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 8:37 pm

I’ve been wanting to write about a wonderful local resource, the Huntington, for a long time, but couldn’t figure out how to work it into a post. It is located in the wealthy town of San Marino, an interesting community just south of Pasadena. The Huntington (or, to use its full name, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens), has one of the best archives in the country for British and American history and literature, 15th century European books, history of science, maritime history, and Renaissance exploration and cartography. The place has the manuscript collection of Jack London, for cripes sake. They also have an excellent research library that has a surprisingly large number of Japan-related items. In fact, the last time I searched under “Japan” I got more than 1800 hits – we’re not talking about Japanese-language materials, but still, some interesting things can be found. Their art collection, which focuses on British and French art of the 18th and 19th centuries, probably has some ripe examples of Japonisme, though I haven’t investigated.

Most fun, perhaps, is the Japanese garden, which Kendall Brown wrote about in his book Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast. The garden is a wonderful example of American Japonisme and Orientalism that embodies, in a physical landscape, certain ideas about “the East” from the early 20th century. It was, after all, “collected” by the railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927). Like many Japanese-style gardens in the region, it’s questionable authenticity has not prevented it from becoming both a major tourist destination and an important community resource for Japanese Americans. It also happens to be incredibly beautiful, like the sprawling cactus garden, the extensive Australian garden, the British herb and rose gardens, and the newly installed Chinese “Garden of Flowing Fragrance.”

A lot of people, particularly scholars who work in American history, spend time researching and writing, and enjoying the grounds, at the Huntington during the week. It’s not a bad life, from what I can tell. The research program includes conferences, fellowships, and other interesting opportunities.

So, finally, I wanted to mention that the Huntington is hosting a conference, April 4-5, 2008, titled “Pacific Passages: Connecting East, West, and Center in the Pacific Basin.”

Histories of the Pacific, histories in the Pacific, histories around the Pacific—the proliferation and increasing prominence of Pacific history offers various ways to conceptualize its geographies and understand its peoples. This conference examines different approaches to Pacific histories and cultural encounters throughout the Basin and also considers oceanic frameworks as a historical methodology.

The schedule includes two papers that are obviously related to Japan, and others may also be related: David Howell, “Homeland Security: Preparing for Foreign Invasion in Late Tokugawa Japan” and Andrea Geiger, “Cross-Pacific Debates about the Contours of Race and Class: Meiji-Era Japanese Immigrant Challenges to North American Categories of Exclusion.”

To register, email skrasnoo@huntington.org or call 626-405-3432.

2/6/2008

Upcoming Events at the Donald Keene Center

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:37 am

If you are in New York city in the next few months, you might want to check out the spring schedule for the Donald Keene Center for Japanese culture at Columbia University.

Upcoming Events at the Donald Keene Center — Spring 2008

1. Thursday, 2.7 On the Trail of the Urban Nomad in the Tokyo of the 1980s
2. Wednesday, 2.13 Woman on the Other Shore: An Evening with Mitsuyo Kakuta
3. Friday, 2.22 A Memorial for Edward Seidensticker
4. Thursday, 3.27 Householders: The Reizei Family in Japanese History
5. Monday, 4.7 Japanese Style Shifts and Social Identities: The Case of JFL Learners and their Host Families
6. Wednesday, 4.16 Wartime Diaries by Japanese Writers
7. Friday, 4.18 Translation Prize Ceremony
8. Thursday, 5.1 Reading and Writing Sino-Japanese

2/5/2008

“Early Modern” Periodization

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 9:28 pm

I participated in a symposium on February 1st hosted by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Institute, on the topic of early modern periodization in East Asia. It was an exciting event with mostly big-name speakers (I was drafted in as a replacement!) including Kenneth Pomeranz, R. Bin Wong, John Wills Jr., Samuel Yamashita, John Duncan, and Jahyun Kim Haboush. The audience was substantial, prompting the organizers to move us to a much bigger conference room. I counted more than 60 people, implying a great deal of interest in the topic.

It seemed clear from the start that some presenters assumed that “early modern” referred to something real in the histories of Qing, Choson, and Tokugawa Japan, while others saw the term as at most a useful interpretive and comparative tool. The discussion devolved (predictably? unfortunately? amusingly?) into a debate about comparative history. Some participants suggested that using the period “early modern” compromises our ability to study East Asian histories on their own terms, forcing research and analysis into categories invented in certain parts of Western Europe. Others unpacked “early modern” in specific historical and cultural contexts. Still others argued that periodization schemes like “early modern” presented historians of East Asia with the opportunity to engage with historians of Euro-America, to highlight the scanty evidence marshaled in the narrative of the rise of Western modernity, and to move Asia to its rightful place in world history: the center. In my paper on the material heritage of Tokugawa Ieyasu, I made the argument that museums are where much popular education about the early modern takes place, essentially unacknowledged (and, unfortunately, unexamined) by historians of “early modern” East Asia.

In the final discussion of the day, as debate swirled back and forth on this issue, one fact became clear, perhaps winning the argument on the side of the “early modern” doubters better than any grand attempt at persuasion could have done: in the huge crowd of graduate students, scholars, and a few visitors from the general public, only one historian of Europe or America was present, and she was essentially required to be in attendance because of her role in founding and naming the USC-Huntington Early Modern Institute. The hackneyed phrase from the movie “Field of Dreams” comes to mind, except in reverse: even if you build it, they won’t come. In other words, even if a bunch of famous historians of East Asia hold a symposium on a term invented in European history to discuss its broad relevance; even if that event is hosted by an organization dominated by historians of Euro-America; and even if it is held at one of the biggest universities in southern California where lots of historians congregate; they (meaning historians of Euro-America, the group that the comparativists want to engage) won’t come. Of course I care about how badly East Asia is represented in the media, in public education, in much popular culture, and in the writing of many (not all, of course) prominent historians of Europe and America. But if the attendance at this symposium is any indication, adopting this comparative terminology, which often is not a particularly good fit for the diverse regions of the world, is not the answer.

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