Miriam Kingsberg - Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder
This talk introduces what I term the “transwar generation” of Japanese human scientists: students of human diversity as captured by the constructs of “race” and “culture” or Self and Other. Born in roughly the first two decades of the twentieth century, the transwar generation was intellectually active before 1945 and responsible for rebuilding an academic tradition after Japan’s defeat in World War II. What bound these scholars together was a shared, lifelong commitment to a putatively “objective” research methodology defined above all by fieldwork. In the 1930s and 1940s, Japanese human scientists, like their counterparts worldwide, were captivated by British social anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski’s long-term solo immersive methodology. Rather than working alone, however, Japanese researchers generally organized teams to minimize danger, maximize resources, and collect comprehensive information on the empire. Group fieldwork in turn produced a unique relationship among Japanese scholars, their research subjects, and the imperial state. Whereas this technique allowed human scientists to secure their professional position, it also suppressed most potential for political dissent, and cast a long shadow into the postwar period.