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Transnational entanglements of urban discourse in modern Japan

Since the Meiji restoration in 1868 Tokyo has become the most important place for thinking about Japan's modernity, urbanity, and culture. Since then, a large and diverse body of texts about Tokyo has been written, covering a wide range of genres and addressing Tokyo's transformation from various angles. A major underlying theme is the question of how should Tokyo be designed in order to become a better place for living. The discourse was inspired or even guided by European and North-American projects in architecture and urban planning and writers, artists, and thinkers who struggled with urban issues. Various entanglements came into being, multiplying and diversifying urban discourses and, as a result, creating new visions of Tokyo, its inhabitants, and even the nation state.

The project attempts to investigate this emerging field of knowledge in Japan and its global connections and entanglements. A particular focus will be on literature and the arts in modern Japan. Special attention will be given to three preeminent novelists of modern Japan, who made important contributions to this discourse: Kōda Rohan (1867-1947), in particular his treatise Ikkoku no shuto (One Nation's Capital, 1899), Mori Ōgai's (1862-1922) writings on the relationship between modern city planning and health policy, and Nagai Kafū's (1879-1959) writings on modern Tokyo and its links with the past. These works give proof of the enormous dynamics of and struggles with new forms of knowledge, representation, and narratives in the globally emerging field of urban studies in this time - not only in Europe and North-America, but also in Japan.

Nature of the project:

Individual research project


2019 -

Participating researchers:

Prof. Dr. Evelyn Schulz (LMU)