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Contemporary Japanese Thought (Weatherhead Books on Asia) [Hardcover]

Richard Calichman
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

September 14, 2005 023113620X 978-0231136204

Appearing for the first time in English, the writings in this collection reflect some of the most innovative and influential work by Japanese intellectuals in recent years. The volume offers a rare and much-needed window into the crucial ideas and positions currently shaping Japanese thought ( shiso).

In addressing the political, historical, and cultural issues that have dominated Japanese society, these essays cross a range of disciplines, including literary theory, philosophy, history, gender studies, and cultural studies. Contributors examine Japan's imperialist and nationalist past as well as representations and remembrances of this history. They also critique recent efforts in Japanese right-wing circles to erase or obscure the more troubling aspects of Japan's colonial enterprise in East Asia. Other essays explore how Japan has viewed itself in regard to the West and the complex influence of Western thought on Japanese intellectual and political life.

The volume's groundbreaking essays on issues of gender and the contested place of feminist thought in Japan discuss the similarities between the emotional bullying of women who do not accept traditional gender roles and teasing in schools; how the Japanese have adopted elements of Western orientalism to discredit feminism; and historical constructions of Japanese motherhood.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

An admirable, engrossing, and valuable collection.

(Andrew Barshay International Journal of Asian Studies 1900-01-00)

Important for making accessible to Western audiences not only the existence but the richness of the theoretical debates taking place within a non-Western society.

(Chikako Endo, H-Net)

The book deserves to be widely read beyond (as well as within) the bounds of Japanese studies

(Tessa Morris-Suzuki Japanese Studies 1900-01-00)

[Calichman has] rendered us a tremendous service. This collection makes a powerful first step toward filling a definite need.

(Michael K. Bourdaghs Philosophy East & West)

Review

This is a stunning collection of essays in contemporary Japanese thought and politics. It will immeasurably raise the bar in Japanese studies

(Mark Anderson, University of Minnesota)

Product Details

  • Series: Weatherhead Books on Asia
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (September 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023113620X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231136204
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,350,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overly Ambitious Title January 5, 2006
Format:Paperback
In general, I would say this book offers the reader some interesting and thought-provoking articles by some contemporary Japanese thinkers, made accessible in English with really top-notch translation work. The articles are indeed quite recent as of publication date too, so the included thinkers are indeed grappling with current issues.

My chief complaint with this book is that the title promises much more than it delivers. The articles are all pretty much examples of Postmodern thought in its various permutations and staunchly left in political orientation, with a strong dose of French influence. (If you have a penchant for this stuff, this book is definitely for you). This is all fine and well as far as it goes, and the editor makes no bones about the criteria of selection so everything is all up front and honest. With this in mind, though, the title is misleadingly general--something more like "Postmodern Thought in Contemporary Japan" would have been more apropos, or perhaps "Derrida does Tokyo" if we are in a flippant mood.

For that matter, a little more balance might have improved the book. Several of the thinkers included argue against other contemporary Japanese thinkers vociferously, but since the latter are excluded from the selection for being insufficiently leftist, postmodern, or Francophile, the reader is prevented from seeing the debate in all its fullness--and nothing decontsructs reified preconceptions of a monolithic "Japan" & "Japanese Thought" like the firsthand spectacle of different Japanese thinkers involved in no-holds-barred debate. Presumably this was one of the aims of the book, after all.

One more thing: Calichman is a truly fine translator, but someone need to take him aside and explain to him that the purpose of an introduction is to make the inaccessible accessible and the unfamiliar familiar, not the other way around.
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