i spent four hours yesterday in back to back talks, which, while interesting, were not exactly the most upbeat things in the world. The first was a bit of a scattered 'this project is just coming on line' kind of talk about Tokyo as an Imperial city, and the ways in which the flows to and from colonial spaces into and out of Tokyo made it function as such, ultimately creating something the presenter called 'Imperial Modernity' which was a sort of precursor for 'Global Modernity'. I'm not sure if I'm entirely convinced that the way to go about studying Tokyo this way is only through it's colonial flows (tours, export of architecture, and inhabitants) but at the same time I think the professor was also trying to carve out his own niche in a field of modern Tokyo studies that is perhaps fairly complex already. In the end it gave me quite a bit to think about in terms of how we retroactively construct modernity only with those things that have remained as markers (not the failed structures, like a kind of exported Shinto, etc).
the second talk, though, was the truly compelling and entirely depressing one. The presenter does environmental history, which is a fascinating kind of field that appears to almost merge the scientific and the historical. He made a compelling case for the idea that we cannot ever escape the fact that, for good or ill, the world is inescapably marked and influenced by the humans that live in it. The grim reality (at least as far as he was arguing, but I was definitely convinced) is that that public policy does not simply affect constructions of our notion of community, but it is, in fact, pain etched on the bones of the people. Lyrical and terrifying thought, though it does tie in with everything I've been watching/reading/being terrified by in terms of women's rights in the US. And of course this presenter was talking about two different traumatic illness events in Japan (and he of course gestured a little to Fukushima, since it's pretty inescapable, but that wasn't the main point of his talk at all) and how if we are going to narrate a story of 'root causes' of these things, we must talk not just about the chemical and the landscape and the weather, but also the social conditions, religious practices, public policy, because they have just as much if not more impact on these things.
sadly he wasn't willing to say if this is hopeful or not, since, well, historians - they look back, not necessarily forward.
so that was fun. now onto grading mid terms!
also posted to dreamwidth | you can reply here or there | um, but don't worry, i'm still an lj girl