Japan Studies Colloquium Series


Brandeis University


January 31 (Thursday) at 4:30 p.m., Location: Lown 2 (auditorium)

Professor Jordan Sand (Georgetown University, Department of History)

"The Logic of the Flammable City, Edo-Tokyo"

In a popular metaphor revealing of their bravado, the denizens of Edo, Tokyo’s early-modern precursor, referred to fires as “the flowers of the capital.” Despite a number of attempts by the authorities to mandate use of fireproof materials, the frequency of fire in the city increased over the course of 250 years of Tokugawa rule. In the first two decades under the rule of the modern state in the late nineteenth century, the capital’s famous flowers were largely eradicated. This occurred without any major advance in the technology of either fireproofing or fire-extinguishing. The transformation raises a host of questions about governance, property, and conceptions of dwelling. This presentation will explore the modern transition in Japan's capital city by reframing the early modern and modern urban social contexts as two distinct "regimes of fire."

March 6th (Thursday) at 4:00 p.m., Location TBA:

Professor Eve Zimmerman (Wellesley College, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures)

Co-sponsored by German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures

Discussing her recent book, Out of the Alleyway: Nakagami Kenji and the Poetics of Outcaste Fiction

March 13th (Thursday) at 3:30 p.m.

Professor Ian Miller (Harvard University)

"The Great Zoo Massacre: Ôdachi Shigeo and the Logic of Sacrifice in Wartime Japan" TALK TO BE RESCHEDULED, FOR FALL 2008

Ôdachi Shigeo, Tokyo’s powerful Governor General and future Home Minister, faced a difficult situation in the summer of 1943. Having just returned from his post as Imperial Mayor of Occupied Singapore (Shônan), where he had watched the Japanese empire expand and then, with terrifying speed, begin to contract as the weight of American industrial capacity swung behind the war effort, Ôdachi knew that the triumphalist news stories of the day were woefully out of touch with reality. The Japanese empire was on the verge of horrific collapse, and the mass death and brutal hardships of the frontlines would soon be visited upon the capital’s populace. As the official charged with steeling Tokyo’s women and children for the arrival of Allied bombers and troops, Ôdachi was confronted with the question of how to mobilize a population numbed by years of propagandist exaggeration and exhausted from long-term material deprivation. His answer was one of the most surreal and best remembered events of the Pacific War: the mass mediated ritualized slaughter of Tokyo’s wildly famous zoo animals.

The slaughter was choreographed to shock depleted Tokyoites into a higher level of ideological compliance, suppress dissent, and instill a heightened sense of emergency through a conscious rupture of everyday conventions. Arguably rational only within the context of total war and impending total defeat, Ôdachi’s diaries and official memos illustrate not only the logic of sacrifice in a society in crisis but also the sacrifice of logic to the dictates of blinkered military strategy and illusory victory.

April 14th (Monday) 3:40-5:00 p.m., Location: Shiffman Humanities Center 216

Professor Susan Napier (Tufts University, Department of German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures)

Co-sponsored by German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures

"Lost in the Electric City: Densha Otoko and Akihabara"

April 17th (Thursday), 3:30 p.m. Location: TBA

Professor Anne Allison (Duke University, Department of Anthropology)

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

"The Sociality of Neoliberalism: Affect, Family, and Japanese Kids"

In an era of encroaching neoliberalism where the market economy and privatization are dominating ever more of—economic, social, and personal—life, how do youth imagine the human world around them and what kinds of attachments or detachments with others do they forge? Given that the modernist hope in the future and progressive prosperity has diminished if not totally ruptured in recent years—and this, strikingly so in Japan in its post-Bubble unease—youth are caught in a cipher of “futurelessness” where many say they can barely imagine a world or time beyond the present. How does such a time-freeze play out in the affective investments children form—or don’t form—with others and how, in turn, does the affective geometry of their lives get impacted by, and impact itself, the immaterial labor so critical to capitalism today? That is, what kind of sociality—ties to family, work, peers, self—is productive of capitalism today and how are kids contributing to or getting configured in this social economy? Representing very initial research, the paper is primarily a think piece, meant to address the sociality—or what the press often claims is the lack, loss, or violation of sociality—of youth today by asking what kind of sociality (or affective attachments, affective labor) accompanies the logic of the neoliberal market which, in turn, shapes or is shaped by kids. The focus is on Japanese teenagers in the first decade of the new millennium, and centers on ties made—or broken—with family, questioning the relevance of “family” and, alternatively, other affective relations, to a capitalism increasingly geared to the production less of things than of the immateriality of information, communication, and affect.



Japanese Tea, welcoming all students from Japan and those interested in the academic study of Japan. Admissions Office lounge. 5:00 p.m.
(September 5)

Brett Walker (University of Montana) Japan’s Kamioka Mine: Engineering Human Pain in the Hybrid Environments of the Jinzū River Basin Tuesday, Tuesday, September 18th, at 4:00 p.m. (Shiffman, room 216). Co-sponsored by the Department of History, and The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.

Matthew Fraleigh (Brandeis University) Blood Into Ink: the Poetry of the Shishi in Nineteenth Century Japan, Tuesday, October 9th, at 3:30 p.m. (Golding, room 101)

Christine Marran (University of Minnesota) Confessions of an Ex-Con: Reading Repentance in Meiji-era Japan. Monday, October 29th, 3:30 p.m. (Shiffman, room 216). Co-sponsored by the Department of German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literatures.

Keith Vincent (Boston University) "Queer Pasts and Straight Futures: Homosocial Narrative in Modern Japanese Fiction", at 3:10 p.m., November 6th, as part of the Symposium on Sexualities and the National Body in Asia (Tuesday, November 6th) in the Women's Studies Research Center.

For more information, please contact Professor Ellen Schattschneider (Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University) eschatt@brandeis.edu (781)736-2219.