The annual conference of the VSJF – German Association for Social Science Research on Japan – will take place on November 20-22, 2015in Leipzig. This year’s topic is “Energy in modern Japan. Past, Present, Future“.
Taking into consideration the conference’s concept (see below), interested researchers are kindly invited to send their topics and abstracts (max. 500 words) in English, German or Japanese language until March 20th 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details and preliminary program: http://www.uni-leipzig.de/~japan/cms/index.php?id=162
VSJF Annual Conference 2015
The annual conference 2015 of the VSJF – German Association for Social Science Research on Japan – will be held from November 20-22, 2015 under the title “Energy in modern Japan. Past, present, future” at the University of Leipzig. The Institute for Japanese Studies at Leipzig University headed by Prof. Dr. Steffi Richter will organize this conference together with Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Director of the Environmental Policy Research Centre and member of the German Ethics Commission for a Safe Energy Supply appointed by chancellor Angela Merkel.
We have planned four panels along a vertical (diachronic) and a horizontal (synchronic) axis. Accordingly, “Energy and Japan” will be discussed in regard to a temporal change from past to present (“Meiji modernity”, “postwar modernity”) and future (“Green capitalism”? De-growth/ post growth society? Scenarios after “Fukushima” and energy reforms). In other words: from a fossil energy-based era of industrial growth societies to a reconstruction of societies and cultures turning “post carbon”. Simultaneously and in line with VSJF’s foundational principle of interdisciplinary work and a comprehensive understanding of society and culture, we aim to combine various methodological and theoretical approaches from different disciplines in a synchronic way: “Black gold” (coal/oil) and the electrical energy it produces are of central importance to Japan’s capitalist-colonialist modernity not only in politico-economic terms. They are also inscribed in the “mental infrastructures” (Harald Welzer), in everyday life, even in language(s), and have become important and perpetually contested topoi in the discourses of Japaneseness (nihon(jin)ron) – just take a new look from this perspective at Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s In Praise of Shadows, Watsuji Testurō’s climate theory in Climate and Culture or the glorification of a “bright life” (akarui seikatsu) in postwar Japan. The division of the atom as a source of energy has not only seen a differentiation into “good” and “bad” (military vs. peaceful) use, but is also mirrored in society by divided opinions – traumatic memories vis à vis hopeful expectations, advocates of nuclear energy vs. anti-nuclear activism. Furthermore, it divided and continues to divide society along various other lines: e.g. the spatial divide in provinces/ villages mainly producing nuclear energy and cities mainly consuming it; or the class divide within the power generating industry of privileged regular workers in contrast to nomadic (dekasegi) “disposable workers”. Considering possible future scenarios in the face of both the “Fukushima” and imminent global climate catastrophes, we have to ask what types of interplay between economy, politics, nature, everyday life and communities of values are they striving to design and articulate?
These considerations are posed in a trans- and intercultural setting as well as a trans- and international setting. Being an institution that follows a cultural studies approach in teaching and researching on Japan from the early modern era (late 18th century) to the present, the Institute for Japanese Studies in Leipzig applies a broad understanding of culture with two main characteristics: a) including socially and regionally specific everyday cultures as well as culturally determined peculiarities in the various societal subdomains of economics, politics, education etc.; b) regarding Japan’s path to modernity as a local inflection of socio-cultural processes that take place synchronously on a global level. This path, despite its specific historical path dependence, needs to be examined in a transnational and transcultural context – which, of course, also applies to the field of “energy”.