Monday, October 17, 2005

Random Notes

Right now I am not satisfied with blogging. In fact, I am not sure I want to keep doing it. I am not attracting/addressing an audience interested in continental European history. I may closed down in a few weeks and concentrating on my dissertation.

The least I can do is point out some good reading, like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the World Sixty Years Later. The article examines memory in Japan as it relates to World War Two and the atomic bomb. The disappearance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from public history seems to go hand in hand with the idea that Japan's war was not aggressive imperialism, but anti-Westernization.
Takahashi explains that Hiroshima was once a popular destination for school trips, but in recent years the education ministry had been putting pressure on the teachers’ unions to discontinue peace education and to promote nationalism instead. The Hiroshima prefectural Board of Education is especially strict, he said, because the city of Hiroshima is such a hotbed of political activity. When teachers in the Hiroshima schools protested the imposition of singing the national anthem in school by lip-synching, the government sent representatives to monitor the volume at which the anthem was sung.

And it’s not just in Hiroshima. The education ministry has been promoting nationalism across Japan by starting to enforce patriotic indoctrination in the schools. In Tokyo, for example, the Metropolitan Board of Education—made up partly of elected representatives and partly of members appointed by the conservative Tokyo governor (and former novelist) Shintaro Ishihara—has the sole power to decide which texts meet national standards. The 1994 Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, who has been writing about this issue recently, said he believes that the board does not actually read the textbooks but instead works from a handbook which quantifies the patriotism-promoting tendencies of a text according to the numbers of times it mentions certain issues, such as the island of Takeshima, which the Japanese government contends belongs to Japan, but which the Korean government believes is Korean (and calls Dokto); or the number of times the words “Japanese traditions” appear. There is also a volunteer committee, composed entirely of well-known editors and critics—all right-wing extremists—formed specifically to write and promote a nationalistic textbook. Teachers have been resisting the use of such revisionist texts, but we heard in Hiroshima about retaliations—punitive postings to locations where a long commute would be required, for example—against teachers who resisted the directives of their local boards. The curriculum now not only omits mention of Japanese aggression in Asia but gives very little attention to the atomic bombings.

While a disagree that the memory of the atomic bomb should naturally lead to pacifism and anti-proliferation, I found myself thinking about the positive role that anti-war discourses can play -- and should play -- in debates on public policy.

Anthony Gottlieb's review of Tony Judt's new book highlights the sense of possibility and fear that followed World War Two. Judt's evaluation of post-war Europe -- that it was able to crawl out of the shadow of American supremacy -- may irk some historians. He does, however, address an ongoing problem of post-war historiography: that European nations realigned themselves to the realities of the Cold War. Indeed, real history was made beneath the conflict between superpowers. Moreover, the Marshall Plan -- that paradigm of nation-(re)building -- was more important psychologically than economically.

I also want to make a quick note of Eric Hobsbawm's article on Jewish emancipation.

The White Sox, by the way, made quick work of the Angels, with or without the controversy.


At 11:58 AM, Blogger John said...

While I fully understand the need and desire to focus on your dissertation, I, for one, would miss your blog very much.

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Muninn said...

I would also miss your blog...I read it through my RSS reader where it has a prominent place as one blog whose entries get more than the usual skim.

At 1:44 AM, Blogger Mapo said...

Don't stop completely, you will get your blog vibe back. Why not limited yourself to posting photographs until the dreaded dis is finished?

Audience is a tricky one. I suspect there are people reading your blog who you know nothing about. In future you could reach out to a wider audience by attaching your blog to a resources site.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Nuno Guerreiro said...

It would be very sad to see you end the blog. The Rhine River is one the best blogs I know.
I hope you reconsider...

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...

Everyone: thank you for your comments. I don't know what I want to do. I could never complain about the attention that I get, especially the numerous links that I have gotten over the past year. Several things frustrate me, most notably that half of visitors are students from .edu's who have Googled in because they don't want to look up information for themselves. I want to yell out, "If you need me to tell you about Kenneth Frampton, you are in trouble." I also realize that the setup is too clunky for the number of posts that I write, and I don't have time to make significant changes to the template.

Moreover, I think I have pushed blogging as a form of dissertating to the brink. Perhaps I should adopt a different approach (thanks for the suggestions, Claire). Any advice is welcome.

I won't close down until I have tried some new stuff. I must give up on the hope that somewhere in the blogging community, there are Germanists and Gallicists waiting.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger bigblue said...

If you need to concentrate on your dissertation, by all means do so. I have been following you via your RSS feeds for a long time though, and will miss you.


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