Session Abstract: This panel centers the rural as a site of cultural and intellectual production, political activity, and community formation in twentieth-century Japan. Challenging the notion, all too common in English-language historiography, that the currents of “culture” and “modernity” flow inevitably outward from the cities, it explores the potential of “the rural as method,” seeking a new frame of reference beyond the metropolis for the study of Japanese society and culture. The participation of scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and spanning the twentieth century reflects and underscores the diversity and dynamism of cultural, political, and social life in Japan beyond the cities.
Following Waswo and Nishida (2003), the four papers that comprise this panel ask what happens when rural people “are allowed to speak for themselves.” Acosta and Walker introduce the journals Nōhonshakai and Nōmin, which contain some of the clearest expressions of attempts to develop “agrarian ideologies” against both fascism and Marxism during the prewar period. Working with these understudied texts, they present new interpretations of rural intellectual and cultural movements of the 1920s and 30s. Comastri and Yasuoka discuss how new post-war subjects, particularly women and the elderly, faced challenges to social organization. With a focus on the late 1950s and early 60s, the two papers investigate how these groups responded to the new possibilities offered by post-war society for social change and cultural engagement.
Paper Presenter: Tyler Walker – Kalamazoo College
Paper Presenter: Ariel Acosta – Waseda University
Paper Presenter: Chiara Comastri – University of Oxford
Paper Presenter: Kenichi Yasuoka – Osaka University