Our panel offers three cultural historical examinations of pivotal moments in 20th century Japanese history through literary and cultural work. Each paper addresses sociopolitical transformations of urban space by revisiting these as scenes of conflict, irresolution, and possibility.
Our panel offers three cultural historical examinations of pivotal moments in 20th century Japanese history. We will be examining these moments through literary and cultural work that foregrounds lives and experiences that escape the normalizing impact of insistently sociological categorizations, institutionalizations, and reductive historicist narratives. Each paper addresses sociopolitical transformations of urban space by revisiting these as scenes of conflict, irresolution, and possibility. Nate Shockey (Bard College) considers the impact of Tokyo governor Gotō Shinpei's post-earthquake radical reform of the capital's infrastructure through literature that attends to the human remainders of this biopolitical process. In the wake of the 1923 earthquake's devastation, Gotō massively transformed the capital through Haussman-inspired systems of circulation, creating new human relations and surplus populations. Shockey examines the experience of this post-disaster upheaval through the modernist literature of Yokomitsu Riichi as a testimony to the "dialectic of reterritorialization between the human body and the conquest of space." Michael Molasky (Waseda University) addresses the early postwar years through the literature of Nosaka Akiyuki, whose works from the 1960s insistently figure the ways in which memory and experience erupt into a daily life predicated on the artificially tidy historical separation of war and the "postwar." Nosaka explores remembrance as an act of reimagination, employing a prose practice that blurs putative historical distance. Returning to the scene of the black markets, a highly charged symbolic landscape in the interstices between a broken old order and the emergence of a new sociopolitical configuration, Nosaka addresses the lingering presence of this unresolved past. William Marotti (UCLA) considers the production of Shinjuku in 1968 as a space of possibility through the figuring of youth counterculture and the related, abject category of "fūten" (layabouts). As a nexus for these phenomena and their contested representations, Marotti addresses the relation between a politics of violence and the radical cultural politics of the moment, including art, theater, and counterculture, reflecting in turn on the transnational, global dimensions of 1968. Looking beyond conventional periodization, the papers together bring out the untimely connections of crisis and possibility across these three moments through an expansively conceived cultural historical practice.