AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 699

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Session 699: Rethinking the Social History of Intellectual Activity in Early Modern and Modern Japan: Contexts and Networks

Organizer: Andrew T. Kamei-Dyche, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

Chair: Herman Ooms, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Discussant: Patti H. Kameya, University of St. Thomas, USA

In recent years, the field of Japanese intellectual history has rapidly expanded in new directions. However, the bulk of innovation has been concerned with formulating fresh readings of texts in light of contemporary critical theory, with far less attention afforded the social history of intellectual activity. Whether understood as connecting intellectual and political discourses, uncovering the context of intellectual production, or tracing the components of intellectual life, the social history of intellectual activity stands to offer exciting new perspectives on received wisdom regarding the historical significance of intellectuals and their ideas. This panel, by considering anew particular concepts, cross-cultural contacts, and human networks from within the social context of Japanese intellectuals seeks to shed light on a range of issues in Japanese intellectual history from the early modern through modern eras. Andre Linnepe's paper undertakes a reassessment of Yamaga Soko's theory of knowledge and action from the perspective of Soko's connection to domain politics. Doyoung Park considers the Korean embassy within the context of Japanese Confucian culture, where it took on an unexpected but vital role. Andrew Kamei-Dyche looks at the social circles of late Meiji- and Taisho-era intellectuals, and assesses the multifaceted roles these networks played in the culture and careers of their participants. Finally, Takashi Saikawa examines the clash between assertions of national culture by Chinese and Japanese intellectuals on the one hand, and European claims to universalism on the other, in the discourse in the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

The Korean Connection: The Korean Embassy and Japanese Confucianists
Doyoung Park, Osaka Gakuin University, Japan

The Korean embassy remains one of the most significant symbols of cultural exchange between Japan and Korea. The bakufu took the event seriously, ordering daimyo in local domains to do their utmost to serve the embassy. Japanese intellectuals also clamored to meet the members of the embassy and discuss scholarly issues. The majority of Korean researchers assert that the embassy played a key role in transmitting "advanced" Korean culture, and particularly Confucian knowledge, to Japan. However, within the context of Japanese intellectual culture at the time, the embassy had a significantly different function: namely, that of legitimization. In the absence of a civil service examination system like that of China or Korea, Japanese Confucianists enjoyed a degree of intellectual freedom that their continental colleagues lacked, but they also had to seek alternative ways to evaluate their scholarly credentials and "authorize" their schools of thought. Engaged in often fierce competition with each other in the intellectual marketplace, Japanese Confucianists depended upon some form of legitimization in order to make a living. The Korean embassy was an excellent target for appropriation for this purpose. While early intellectuals who encountered the embassy were honestly eager to expand their knowledge of Confucianism, over time they were increasingly replaced by those seeking to legitimize their schools and advertise their encounter with the embassy as evidence of scholarly quality. By tracing this development, this paper offers an innovative contribution to both intellectual history and the history of Japanese-Korean relations.

The Circuits of Intellectual Life: Intellectual Circles in Late Meiji and Taisho Japan
Andrew T. Kamei-Dyche, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

Scholarship on the Meiji and Taisho Periods of Japanese history has rightly given thoughtful consideration to Japanese intellectuals, and their role in both affirming and challenging the political and social ideologies of their era. Significant attention has been afforded both schools of thought and particular individuals, while more recent studies have turned to discourse analysis to shed new light on intellectuals and their era. Substantially less attention, however, has been paid to the social lives of Japanese intellectuals as a group, and the extent to which the careers and reputations of writers and thinkers were shaped by colleagues, publishers, and others through social networks. The daily rhythms of intellectual life were strongly bound up with social circles, which collectively formed the social backbone of the intellectual community. Some notable circles have received recognition, particularly in the Japanese scholarship, but as a general social phenomenon among intellectuals they remain understudied. This paper seeks to elucidate just what these circles were, and how they functioned, drawing out the characteristic relationships and activities that informed them, and articulating the various roles they played in the careers, intellectual activity, and cultural life of members. By focusing on circles centered around Natsume Soseki and Nishida Kitaro, the paper reveals the range of individuals that comprised these circles, the importance these circles had for them, and how they can be studied so as to contribute to our understanding of the social history of the era.

National Culture, 'Asia,' and the World: Japan and China in the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation in the 1930s
Takashi Saikawa, University of Heidelberg, Germany

This paper seeks to examine cultural assertions of Japanese and Chinese intellectuals in an international context, by focusing on intellectuals in the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC). Founded in 1922 as an advisory organization for the League of Nations, the ICIC aimed at facilitating understanding among nations through constructing an international network of intellectuals. It soon became the most representative organization for cultural exchange in the interwar period. Among the members from non-western countries, Japan and China were both the most ardent advocates and the most outspoken critics of the ICIC. On the one hand, they promoted a close relationship with the organization, but on the other hand they emphasized the significance of national culture for rebelling against the Eurocentric universalism upon which the ICIC was predicated. The backlash from Chinese and Japanese intellectuals against the ICIC's underlying assumptions prompted the organization to shift its guiding principle from intellectual cooperation based on the presumed universality of western civilization to international cultural exchange based on the particularity of national cultures. This paper in particular examines the discourse in the ICIC in the 1930s, when the organization came to identify itself as the "league of cultures," while Japan and China called for recognition of their respective national cultures in connection with regional concepts such as "Asia." It argues that while Japan and China shared common motives in making cultural assertions to the ICIC under the rubric of regional concepts, their views of the content of such notions were inherently incompatible.