Deus Absconditus: A Comparative Study Of Japanese And American Political Theologies In The Time Of Empire, 1931-1945
This dissertation challenges established assumptions concerning the religious and civilizational influences upon certain prominent Japanese and American intellectuals during the interwar period, 1931-1945. My argument has two stages. First, I take the case of Tanabe Hajime, a major theorist of Japanese imperial sovereignty, and demonstrate that he has been mistakenly represented as (something like) a "Buddhist" thinker who advocates Japanese racial superiority as a justification for empire. In fact, on closer examination of his writings it is apparent that he is to all intents and purposes a political theologian adapting the discourse of the Barthian post-WWI Euro-American theological world. It is also apparent that he has much more complex views on race and its malleability than his commentators have typically afforded to him. The second stage of my argument is to show how the forms of "postnational" sovereignty Tanabe is arguing for are also given serious consideration (and often support) by major American intellectuals of the time. I undertake this comparison by examining the work of Reinhold Niebuhr and John Foster Dulles in the 1930s. In particular, through highlighting the deployment of "repentance" by all three thinkers, as well as through historicizing the various representations of transpacific interwar intellectual history post-WWII, I show the conspicuous transpacific commonalities among all three figures. This, in turn, evidences the distorted nature of the prevailing accounts of the 1930s, accounts that have deployed civilizational religiocultural differences to misrepresent and/or disavow or the global transformations of thinking on sovereignty during this time.
Tanabe Hajime; political theology
Koschmann,Julien Victor; de Bary,Brett
Ph. D., History
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis