2016-2017 Terasaki Chair in U.S.-Japan Relations; Professor/Author/Literary and Cultural Critic
Kojin Karatani is widely renowned as the most important literary critic and philosopher of contemporary Japan. Moving across philosophy, literary theory, economics, aesthetics, and politics (East and West, Past and Present), Karatani possesses one of the most intense, profound, and critical voices of our time. Awarded the Gunzo Literary Prize for an essay on Natsume Soseki in 1969, he began working actively as a literary critic, while teaching at Hosei University in Tokyo. In 1975 he was invited to Yale University to teach Japanese literature as a visiting professor, where he became acquainted with Yale critics such as Paul de Man and Fredric Jameson. After publishing “Origins of Modern Japanese Literature” (Duke) in 1980, Karatani proceeded from literary criticism to more theoretical studies ranging from “Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money” (MIT) to “Transcritique: On Kant and Marx” (MIT). “Transcritique” (2003) has received widespread recognition as one of the most exciting re-readings of the two philosophers in recent years. Together with these English translations, Karatani has written over twenty books in Japanese.
At the same time, he made a political commitment to editing the quarterly journal “Critical Space” with Akira Asada. For over a decade “Critical Space” was the most influential intellectual journal in Japan. In 2000, Karatani also organized the New Associationist Movement (NAM)--NAM was conceived as a counter–capitalist/nation-state association, inspired by the experiment of LETS (Local Exchange Trading System, based on non-marketed currency). Since 1990 he has taught regularly at Columbia University as a visiting professor of comparative literature. He was a regular member of ANY, the international architects' conference which was held annually for the last decade of the 20th century. In 2006, Karatani retired from teaching in Japan to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.