PFJ Affiliated Events, 2016-17

PFJ Affiliated Events, 2016-17

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
What Isn’t Shinto?

Fisher-Bennett 401 (corner of 34th & Walnut Streets), Reception to Follow
What Isn’t Shinto?

      In an historical moment characterized by attempts to “green” Shintō by linking it to environmentalism or to mobilize Shintō concepts in the service of rightwing Japanese nationalist agendas, the exigency of clarifying the precise nature of this Japanese religion is clear. While recent scholarship has elucidated the origins of kami worship and the historical emergence of “Shintō” as a discrete religion separate from Buddhism, the relationship between Shintō and other spheres of social life in modern and contemporary Japan remains insufficiently understood. Depending on who one asks, Shintō is either the indigenous religion of the Japanese archipelago, the irreducible core of Japanese culture, a tiny subset of Japanese Buddhism, an oppressive political ideology linked to the emperor system, an environmentalist ethic, or some combination of these. Our project brings together historians, anthropologists, and scholars of religion from around the globe to collaborate with students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools in the Philadelphia area in addressing a simple question with a complicated answer: “What isn’t Shintō”?


Monday, October 3, 12 – 1 p.m.
“Archaeological Investigations into the Omuro Cairn and Earthen Mound Group, Central Highlands of Japan (5th to 7th Centuries A.D.)”

Ken’ichi Sasaki, Professor of Archaeology, Meiji University (Tokyo)
Williams Hall 844

Ken’ichi Sasaki is a Professor of Archaeology at Meiji University, Tokyo. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1995. Focusing on regional variability of elite burial mounds (kofun), his main research specialty is the process of state formation during the first half of the 1st millennium AD in Japan. Professor Sasaki’s long-term goal is to illuminate the processes of state formation that occurred in the Japanese archipelago which he believes are distinct from those of ancient Mesopotamia or China.

Lunch will be provided.
For more information, please contact Yoko Nishimura at

Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, noon – 1 p.m.
“Impossible Escape, Impossible Return: Manchukuo and the Indeterminacy of Subjectivity in ‘Japanese’ Transwar Literature and Cinema”
Stephen Poland, Postdoctoral Fellow, Reischauer Institute
Williams Hall, Room 844

In the late-1950s, writers and filmmakers in Japan turned their attention to the former Japanese “puppet-state” Manchukuo in new ways suggesting not only certain continuities that persisted following the collapse of the Japanese empire into the postwar, but also resonances between the uncertainties faced by subjects of Manchukuo and those of Japanese citizens in the Cold War order in East Asia. In this talk, I will juxtapose short stories from Manchukuo by Imamura Eiji (dates unknown) and Nogawa Takashi (1901-1944) with Abe Kobo’s 1957 novel The Animals Head Home (Kemonotachi wa kokyō o mezasu) and Kobayashi Masaki’s epic 1958-1961 film The Human Condition (Ningen no jōken) to examine how the imperial subjectivities produced in Manchukuo were foreclosed in the postwar but nevertheless continued to function in cultural production that wrestled with Japan’s place in the world. In the case of Manchukuo fiction, I focus on the rift opened up in individuals’ sense of belonging by the notion of becoming “Manchukuoan.” In contrast to readings focused on the question of complicity with or resistance against the state that assume a consciousness of where one stands in historical time, I draw on Lauren Berlant’s notion of “animated suspension” to examine how these literary texts probed subjectivities shaped by a crisis in which social relations are sensed to be changing but the new genres and rules of storytelling have not yet come into being. In particular, Imamura and Nogawa each demonstrate the precariousness of subjects becoming untethered to a specific ethno-national allegiance within Manchukuo society, and therefore the contradictions between Manchukuo’s claims to independence and the terms of its multi-ethnic society. By focusing on such unstable-yet-ongoing temporal moments, I argue that the texts point to the production of Manchukuoan subjectivities in the process of becoming that were rendered irrecoverable by national narratives of the Cold War order in East Asia. Turning to Abe’s novel and Kobayashi’s film, I argue that these subjectivities denied return in the postwar nevertheless a powerful, if spectral, significance for resisting the categories of global alignment taking hold in the immediate wake of the “Bandung moment” and establishment of Japan’s “1955 System” under the Liberal Democratic Party. Considered together, these texts call for a re-examination of the historical development of frameworks we have come to take for granted in our present-day analyses, and how these frameworks are predicated on the recognition of certain modes of subjectivity while rendering others invisible.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 3-6 p.m.
“Showa Japan and its Legacy”

Location TBA, Reception to Follow

    • Professor Tsutsui Kiyotada, Teikyo University Faculty of Arts
    • Professor Iokibe Kaoru, Tokyo University Faculty of Law
    • Professor Takeda Tomoki, Daito Bunka University Faculty of Law
    • Professor Naraoka Sochi, Kyoto University Faculty of Law

The Penn Forum on Japan is proud to welcome four leading Japanese authorities on the political and international history of the 20th century. To celebrate the publication of the English-language edition of Showashi kogi (Fifteen Lectures on Showa Japan: Road to the Pacific War in Recent Historiography), editor Tsutsui Kiyotada (Teikyo University), Iokibe Kaoru (Tokyo University), Takeda Tomoki (Daito Bunka University), and Naraoka Sochi (Kyoto University) will join a panel discussion on the causes and consequences of the Pacific War. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture, the Cabinet of Japan and the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

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