The Standpoint Of World History And Imperial Japan
This dissertation will reread the intellectual history of the Japanese empire from the perspective of sekaishi or "world history." World history was an idea that was discussed by a number of scholars, intellectuals and writers intending to create a "new world order" in the Asia-Pacific region when the empire was faced with the crisis of total war since the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. In this dissertation, I argue that modern Japan was a colonial empire and equipped with a universalist mode of legitimization for its system of rule and integration of its multiethnic populations. By discussing the Japanese Romantics and the Kyoto school of philosophy, I will show how they sought to integrate and mobilize the nation and the imperial subjects in the colonies through the idea of world history. First of all, I will thematize the Japanese Romantic writer Yasuda Yojuro in order to show that Yasuda, contrary to his established image as an anti-modern, aesthetic and ethnic nationalist, in fact advocated the idea of world history. To this end, I will seek to demonstrate how his notion of world history was consistent with, and derived immanently from, his important literary notion of "romantic irony" by looking at his discussions of the German Romantic writer Friedrich Schlegel. Moreover, I will closely examine his narrative of world history and his rhetorical practice of romantic irony in his encounter with the colonial intellectual Hyun Yong Sup in his travelogues on colonial Korea. In turn, I will suggest the critical stakes in Hyun's ironic response to the imperial universalism. Second, I will examine the wartime discussions of "philosophy of world history" by the second generation of the Kyoto school such as Koyama Iwao and Nishitani Keiji. By focusing on their conception of soryokusen or "total war," I will aim to reveal internal contradictions of the notion of world history, which I describe as antinomies. Through these treatments, I will intend to demonstrate how the universalist idea of world history served for Japan's imperial formation in both the metropole and the colony and how it was entangled with ironies and antinomies.
dissertation or thesis