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On Ideology and Ideologues: The Issue of "Japanism" in the Study of Wartime Japan

On Ideology and Ideologues: The Issue of "Japanism" in the Study of Wartime Japan

A colloquium with the 2012-2013 UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. John Person, University of Chicago.

Monday, October 08, 2012
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
UCLA Faculty Center, Sequoia Room
480 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095

RSVP now for Tamim Ansary



In the study of wartime Japan, the notion of Japanism (Nihonshugi) has been used to refer to both the defining ideology of the era and to a set of beliefs or theories espoused by individual nationalist ideologues. The usage of the word to denote these two phenomena becomes complicated when we discover that many prominent self-described “Japanists” were under close watch by the secret police and sometimes imprisoned or barred from political activity altogether. Indeed, Japanist intellectuals and activists were perceived as a threat by the state, which itself touted its adherence to the Japanist cause. This talk will explore ways to talk productively about the relation between ideology and ideologues focusing primarily on the wartime experience of Minoda Muneki (1894-1946), a nationalist scholar-activist known for his participation in the purges of liberal and Marxist scholars from the Imperial University system.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Person received his Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. His specialize in the intellectual history of modern Japan, with particular interests in the intersections between philosophy and politics during the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Person’s dissertation, “Philosophizing ‘Japan’: the Genri Nippon Society and the Question of Japaneseness,” is a study of one of the most notorious activist/scholars of Japan’s wartime era, Minoda Muneki, whose efforts to purge the Imperial University system of liberal and Marxist professors led many to call him the “Joseph McCarthy of Japan.” One of the first studies to take the so-called “rightwing” seriously, “Philosophizing ‘Japan’” is an attempt to re-write the history of the “rightwing” without relying on the convention of rightwing/leftwing, instead opting to focus on what Japanists like Minoda owed to their Marxist and liberalist rivals in their own articulations as well as their often volatile relationship with the state.

Dr. Person also enjoys translating works of critical thought from Japanese to English. His translation of two chapters from Tosaka Jun’s Japanese Ideology will appear in the forthcoming volume Tosaka Jun: A Critical Reader (Cornell East Asia Series). General Will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google by the Japanese critic Hiroki Azuma, which he is co-translating with Naoki Matsuyama, will be published by Vertical Inc. next year.

Dr. Person was selected as the 2012-2013 Terasaki Postdoctoral Fellow for the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. During his fellowship year at UCLA, he will continue to read and think about Minoda and the so-called Japanist movement with an eye towards placing them in a more global context, not only in terms of the worldwide nationalist theoretical activities that people like Minoda were drawing from, but also in terms of historiographical issues related to the study of “extremists.” Additionally, Dr. Person will offer a course on the intellectual history of Japan during the Spring quarter.  

(The image was taken from the journal "Shinbun to Shakai (Newspaper and Society)" May 1940. Reprint issued by Kashiwa Shobo, 2006.)

Cost: Free and open to UCLA students, faculty, staff, and invited guests

Special Instructions

Pay by Space parking is available at Lot 2 or 3 for $11 all day or hourly rates. Please see the following link for a campus map:

For more information please contact

Stephanie Kawahara
Tel: 310-825-4500

Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies

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