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Asian Studies Program, Historical Studies Program, and Japanese Studies Program Present

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Ethnonationalism and the Right Wing in Imperial Japan
Olin, Room 102
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
John Person, University at Albany, State University of New York
During the 1930s and 1940s, Japanese academics with an interest in Marxist and liberal theories of political reform faced a barrage of attacks from nationalist critics who charged that such approaches amounted to treason. This talk explores the notorious right-wing intellectuals of the Genri Nippon Society that led the charge in these attacks, and their ethnonationalist theory called “Japanism.” The essays and translations of Japanist intellectuals served as ammunition for government agencies and politicians aiming to remove political enemies or use anticommunist and patriotic rhetoric for political gain. But as the imperial government sought to harness the mobilizing potential of Japanist rhetoric, Japanists targeted not only leftists but also government figures and institutions for failing to act according to their vision of nationalist orthodoxy. At times collaborating with government agencies in crushing voices of class struggle, and at others becoming the target of government surveillance themselves, these intellectuals came to embody the paradoxically hegemonic yet arbitrary nature of nationalist ideology. This talk provides an account of the cosmopolitan roots and unstable networks of ethnonationalism in Imperial Japan, as well as its self-destructive trajectory.

John Person is an assistant professor of Japanese studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches courses on the history of Japan. He holds degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Chicago, and was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA and Hamilton College before joining the faculty at SUNY Albany. He has published articles in the Journal of Japanese Studies and the Journal of the History of Ideas, and is the translator of Hiroki Azuma’s General Will 2.0: Rousseau, Freud, Google (Vertical).

For more information, call 845-758-6822, or e-mail

Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Location: Olin, Room 102