ANTH 213, EAST 313
Contemporary Japan and the Ghosts of Modernity
This course introduces students to contemporary Japan, examining how its defeat in the Second World War and loss of empire in 1945 continue to shape Japanese culture and society. Looking especially at the sphere of cultural production, it focuses on the question of what it means to be modern as expressed through the tension between resurgent neonationalism and the aspiration to internationalize. The course charts how the legacy of Japan’s imperial failure plays a significant role in its search for renewal and identity since 1945. How, it asks, does the experience of catastrophic failure—and failure to account for that failure—play into continued aspirations for modernity today? How does Japanese society wrestle with modernity’s two faces: its promise for progress and its history of catastrophic violence? The course follows the trajectory of Japan’s postwar nation-state development after the dissolution of empire, from its resurrection out of the ashes after defeat, to its identity as a US ally and economic superpower during the Cold War, to decades of recession since the 1990s and the search for new relations with its neighbors and new reckonings with its own imperial violence and postwar inactions against the background of rising neonationalism.