2018/19 John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies with Professor Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

The Social and Political Lives of Japanese Cherry Blossoms


2018/19 John Howes Lecture in Japanese Studies
With Guest Speaker Dr. Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney
(William F. Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin)

Thursday, November 22, 2018
6:30pm Lecture
7:30pm Reception with light refreshments
Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

Free & open to the public. Online registration is required.

Lecture abstract:

Cherry blossoms have been and remain the most cherished flowers for the Japanese. This talk will present many, often contradictory, meanings and ethos assigned to the flower – from life and love to death – while becoming a symbol of various social groups, and, ultimately, the Japanese as a whole. Dr. Ohnuki-Tierney’s recent book, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History, began as a study of symbolism of cherry blossoms and their viewing in relation to Japanese identities. She explores the ways that the Japanese state, since the end of the nineteenth century through World War II, manipulated this cherished symbol of the people. Highlighted is its abuses during Japan’s military period, culminating in its use for the tokkōtai operation towards the end of World War II. The talk will conclude by deliberating the opacity in symbolic communication and its impact on the people.

Speaker bio: 

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (Ohnuki Emiko), William F. Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin, is a native of Japan and specializes in historical and interpretive anthropology. Beginning with studying the history of the Detroit Chinese and the Sakhalin Ainu, who resettled in Hokkaido, her work on the Japanese began with their health care, followed by symbols of the Japanese collective self, including rice, monkey and cherry blossoms. She is the author of sixteen single-authored books in English and five in Japanese, translated into nine languages. She was Kluge Distinguished Chair of Modern Culture at the Library of Congress and is recipient of John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship,  La médaille du Collège de France, and other awards. She is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has served as its mid-west council member.

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.