2016/17 John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies: Postwar Tokyo: Capital of a Ruined Empire

Thursday November 17, 2016
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

2016/17 John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies
With Guest Speaker Dr. Seiji M. Lippit
(University of California, Los Angeles)

Postwar Tokyo: Capital of a Ruined Empire

Thank you to everyone who attended! The recording can be viewed on YouTube via this link here.


Thursday, November 17, 2016
6:00pm Lecture

Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

Free & open to the public.

Lecture abstract:

In the aftermath of World War II, the city of Tokyo lay in a state of devastation. The capital of what had once been a massive overseas empire was reduced to ruins by the unrelenting Allied aerial bombardment and now faced occupation by a foreign military power for the first time in the nation’s history. At the same time, the city was also the site of a remarkable efflorescence of literature and culture in the immediate postwar period, as intellectuals and artists, many of them returning to the city from the countryside or from overseas territories, grappled with a simultaneous sense of immense loss and hopeful visions of the future. This talk examines ways in which the city of Tokyo—as both a material site and as a space of representation—shaped one of the most productive periods in modern cultural history. It focuses in particular on Tokyo’s materialization of a core contradiction underlying the experience of this historical moment: the city embodied on the one hand a sense of radical historical rupture, while, at the same time, it also framed the spectral return of the imperial past, which haunted the reconstruction of the city and the nation in the years after the war. The talk will examine a number of recurrent themes and images in literature and popular culture, including representations of the capital in ruins, the city under occupation, and the cultural space of the black markets.

About the speaker:

Seiji M. Lippit teaches courses on modern literature and film. His research interests include modernism, mass culture, urban space, minority literature, as well as representations of decolonization, occupation, and the transformation of national consciousness in postwar Japan. His publications include Topographies of Japanese Modernism (Columbia UP, 2002), an examination of modernist fiction in 1920s and 30s Japan, as well as the edited volume The Essential Akutagawa (Marsilio, 1999), an anthology of writings by the celebrated writer Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. He also edited the translation of contemporary philosopher and cultural critic Kojin Karatani’s History and Repetition (Columbia UP, 2011). He is currently working on a book project entitled Postwar Tokyo: Capital of a Ruined Empire that examines the cultures of decolonization in Tokyo in the wake of empire’s collapse. Lippit received his A.B. in Literature from Harvard University and his PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University.

About the John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies:

John Howes was a founding member of UBC’s Department of Asian Studies, which he joined in 1961 after earning his doctorate from Columbia University. During his 30 years of active teaching and research, Professor Howes was at the forefront of Canada-Japan cultural, educational and people-to-people relations and inspired countless young Canadians to dedicate their careers and lives to the Canada-Japan relationship in one way or another. In 2012, a number of UBC faculty, staff, and Professor Howes’ devoted former students came together to launch an endowment in his honour. The fund supports the John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies, an annual public lecture for prominent scholars from around the world to speak to the university community and alumni on topics in Japanese Studies with a focus on Humanities. Dr. Howes passed away peacefully on February 4th, 2017, at the age of 92.