Genealogies of Politics and Thought in Modern Japan

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Genealogies of Politics and Thought in Modern Japan
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Amin Ghadimi, Utsunomiya University, Japan (organizer, presenter)
Taro Tsuda, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, United States (presenter)
Jonas Rüegg, Harvard University, United States (presenter)
Jürgen Melzer, Yamanashi Gakuin University, Japan (chair)
Yoko Fukao, Osaka University, Japan (discussant)


This panel seeks to revisit the field of political history by bringing it into conversation with the newest methodologies and approaches in adjacent fields. Stretching across the full scope of Japanese modernity, from the late Tokugawa to the postwar era, and across various subfields of political history, including geography, thought, and institutional history, the panel hones in on critical junctures of the past to argue that the evolution of political thought and state institutions in modern Japan must be understood in a biographical sense through the networks of their creators.

Jonas Rüegg merges new thinking about the mid-nineteenth-century origins of Japanese imperialism with new attempts to examine the Tokugawa bakufu as an international actor to situate bakumatsu political ideology firmly within the Pacific region. Amin Ghadimi argues that the resurgence of intellectual history over the last decade, especially amid its 'turn to the global,' suffers without adequate attention to the state bureaucratic institutions within which ideas were generated. And Taro Tsuda points at longstanding entanglement between generations of Japanese leaders, shedding light on little-known loyalties and power dynamics in 20th-century Japan; he focuses on the case of one of Japan’s foremost postwar politicians to conceptualize the interplay of political elites and organizations over time. Yoko Fukao and Jürgen Melzer, senior scholars in the field, bring their critical expertise to bear on these new perspectives.