Prof. Dr. Miriam Kingsberg
History of Modern Japan
External Senior Fellow (Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship)
Juni - Juli 2016
Dr. Miriam Kingsberg is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. She specializes in the study of modern Japan. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in 2009. Dr. Kingsberg’s first book, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History, was published by the University of California Press in 2013, and won the Provost’s Award for Faculty Achievement and the Eugene R. Kayden Book Award in 2015. Dr. Kingsberg has also published articles in journals including Comparative Studies in Society and History, the Journal of Asian Studies, the Journal of Japanese Studies, and Monumenta Nipponica.
Dr. Kingsberg is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally titled “The Objectivity Generation: Japanese Human Scientists and the Transwar World.” This collective biography examines the intellectual cohort active from the 1930s through the 1960s, as it created and re-created knowledge of human diversity and national identity amid conditions of imperialism, war, occupation, and independence.
Dr. Kingsberg was an Academy Scholar at Harvard University from 2010-2012 and an ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellow in 2014-2015. She will be a visiting scholar at Columbia University in fall 2016.
- Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.
- “Japan’s Inca Boom: Global Archaeology and the Making of a Postwar Nation." Monumenta Nipponica Vol. 69 No. 2 (2014): 221-254.
- “Becoming Brazilian to Be Japanese: Emigrant Assimilation, Cultural Anthropology, and National Identity.” Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol. 56 No. 1 (2014): 67-97.
- “Methamphetamine Solution: Drugs and the Reconstruction of Nation in Postwar Japan.” Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 76 No. 1 (2013): 141-162.
- “Legitimating Empire, Legitimating Nation: The Scientific Study of Opium Addiction in Japanese Manchuria.” Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 38 No. 2 (2012): 329-355.
The Objectivity Generation: Japanese Human Scientists and the Transwar World
The years from the 1930s through the 1960s, sometimes referred to as Japan’s transwar period, spanned a global moment of particular confidence in human science as a tool of nation-building. Spearheading the search for collective identity was the generation of scholars born in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Dependent upon the state and military for professional prominence, they lent academic credibility to orthodox ideologies of imperialism and racial chauvinism prior to 1945. Yet after Japan’s defeat in World War II, they pivoted to reinvent their country as a First World state defined by pacifism, capitalism, and democracy. Ensconced as spokesmen of these values, their influence endured until the fateful challenge posed by the global revolutions of 1968.
This project unpacks the ideological shifts of the transwar years through a collective biography of the generation that led and lived them. The generational frame suggests continuity as well as change in the critical decades around 1945, often represented as a watershed in Japanese and global history. This lens further invites comparisons and linkages with (West) Germany’s so-called “year zero generation,” the “greatest generation” of the United States, and other chronologically similar cohorts. As I argue, the challenges of nation-building in the mid-twentieth century were jointly addressed by a transnational network of intellectuals who embraced a set of common assumptions regarding the public responsibility of scholars, the relevance of prewar epistemologies in the postwar world, and, above all, the importance of “objectivity” as a defining characteristic of legitimate knowledge.