What March 11 Means to Me

 A Symposium in Honor of Norma Field

March 10-11, 2012
Swift Hall 3rd Floor Lecture Hall
1025 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

The event is being held in honor of Norma Field, Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor in Japanese Studies, who will be retiring from the University of Chicago this year after a long and distinguished career as a scholar, teacher, and activist.

The two-day symposium will feature five public intellectuals and activists from Japan, each speaking about the personal and social impact of last year's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Speakers will include Amamiya Karin, Komori Yoichi, Ryusawa Takeshi, Takahashi Tetsuya, and Yokoyu Sonoko, with remarks and translation by Brian Bergstrom, Heather Bowen-Struyk, Mika Endo, Adrienne Hurley, Justin Jesty, Miho Matsugu, Yuki Miyamoto, Sam Perry, Mamiko Suzuki, and Tomomi Yamaguchi. Please see below for more information about Professor Field and the participants in the symposium.
The symposium is free and open to the public; no registration is required.

Schedule (Subject to Change)

Saturday, March 10
9:45 Opening Remarks
10:00-11:30 RYUSAWA Takeshi 龍澤武
Introduction: Susan Gal, Anthropology
Translation and Commentary: Mamiko Suzuki and Justin Jesty
Lunch (provided)
1:00-2:30 YOKOYU Sonoko 横湯園子
Introduction: Julie Saville, History
Translation and Commentary: Mika Endo and Adrienne Hurley
3:00-4:30 TAKAHASHI Tetsuya 高橋哲哉
Introduction: Martha Ward, Art History and Visual Arts
Translation and Commentary: Yuki Miyamoto and Tomomi Yamaguchi
5:00-6:00  Roundtable discussion (all participants)
6:00-8:00  Public Reception

Sunday, March 11
10:00-11:30 KOMORI Yoichi 小森陽一
Introduction: Leora Auslander, History
Translation and Commentary: Sam Perry and Miho Matsugu
Lunch (provided)
12:30-2:00 AMAMIYA Karin 雨宮処凛
Introduction: James Chandler, English
Translation and Commentary: Heather Bowen-Struyk and Brian Bergstrom

About Norma Field

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Norma Field is first and foremost a writer, whose love of language and literature imbue all her writings and propel her teaching and public life. Having grown up in Tokyo attending an international school, she evinces an equally intimate relationship with both Japanese and English. Accordingly, her first book publication was an English-language translation of Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)’s novel, And Then [Sorekara, 1978]. Her subsequent books explored a wide range of topics with uncommon nuance, and built a readership that spanned the Pacific. In 1987, she published The Splendor of Longing in the Tale of Genji, whose Japanese translation (「源氏物語、<あこがれ>の輝き」) was released in 2009. In 1991, she published In the Realm of a Dying Emperor, which became an American Book Award winner and a “New York Times Notable Book of the Year," and is now a touchstone in Japanese Studies. This momentous book was translated into Japanese in 1994 (「天皇の逝く国で」), followed by a Korean translation in 1995; a revised, expanded edition was published in Japan, with interviews of her subjects “twenty years later.” In 1997, she wove her own family history into an intimate depiction of post-bubble Japanese society in From My Grandmother's Bedside (Japanese translation 2006).

Field is ultimately unique among North American scholars of East Asia because of her efforts to address the contemporary scholarly and social issues of the nation she studies. Her concerns encompass the positions of Japanese children and women, the historical legacy of empire, the nuclear quandary, and Japan's postwar relationships with its East Asian neighbors, to name only a few. Not limiting her audience to academics, she continually engages a larger readership by writing for popular periodicals like Zen'ya, Sekai, Misuzu, Newsweek Japan and newspapers like Asahi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun. In the 2000s alone, she produced a series of Japanese-language book publications, beginning with My Grandmother’s Land (「祖母の国」). Released in 2000 this essay collection includes her well-known piece “The Aims of Education,” a speech given to incoming freshmen at the University of Chicago. Most recently she published a single-author study on the eminent proletarian writer, Kobayashi Takiji (1904-1933), entitled Kobayashi Takiji: 21 seiki ni dō yomu ka (Reading Kobayashi Takiji for the 21st century; 「小林多喜二―21世紀にどう読むか」, 2009), with Iwanami Shoten, an eminent Japanese publishing house. Her coauthored publications include, among others, "For the Revival of Liberal Arts Education --Imagination in a Time of Crisis" (2005), “Become the Wind that Bears the Seeds of Peace" (2007), "Rokkasho-mura Rhapsody: A Documentary in Present Progressive tense" (2008), and "Norma Field Speaking: The Postwar, Literature, and Hope" (2010).

Field’s respected work in Japan went hand in hand with her accomplishments in the English-language field. In addition to her aforementioned book-length scholarship, she published influential articles, including "The Way of the World: Japanese Literary Studies in the Postwar U.S." (1998). She is a founding editorial board member of positions: east asia cultures critique (Duke University Press). With Heather Bowen-Struyk, she is working to complete For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution: An Anthology of Japanese Proletarian Literature, a book that heralds a new era for the study of proletarian cultural movements in all of East Asia, not just in Japan.

The University of Chicago has been the indisputably primary home for Field’s scholarly and collective achievements over the past thirty years. She joined the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations in 1983, the year she received her doctorate from Princeton University.  She has since become a major presence on campus, embodying humanistic intellectual work through impassioned teaching as well as through her own vivid writings. Field has taught courses on pre-modern and modern literature, poetry and translation, children and childhood, and war and nuclear issues. She has worked with many graduate students studying East Asian literature, history, culture, gender studies, anthropology, and other fields. Those students have taught and are currently teaching in colleges and universities throughout North America, as well as Japan. Her ideas and teaching have also touched many undergraduate students who worked with her in and outside of the classroom. As the first female faculty member that earned tenure in the field of East Asian Studies at the University, she has been pivotal in bringing the issue of gender into the East Asian Studies curriculum.

Field made her mark at Chicagp not only through her teaching but also through her tireless commitment to the department, the University, and the field of Japanese Studies. She chaired the Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations from 1998 to 2001, and directed Graduate Studies (1986-88; 2005-7) as well as Undergraduate Studies (2003-4) for the Department. The current Korean Studies and Language program owes a great deal to her dedicated efforts to add Korea to the study of East Asia. She worked with her colleagues to establish the Franke Institute for the Humanities and the Center for Gender Studies (CGS), founded respectively in 1990 and 1996. She became the Acting (Founding) Director of the Institute (1991-92), while serving as the Associate Dean of the Humanities Division (1990-92), and later worked for the CGS as a Faculty Board member (2003-4). She fostered innovative activities, workshops and activist conferences, documentary films, and nuclear issues critical for the understanding of Japan, the U.S., and global relationships at large.

Field's numerous honors and awards include the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and the Japan Foundation Fellowships. She is currently the Robert S. Ingersoll Distinguished Service Professor of Japanese Studies.

About the Participants

Amamiya.jpg  AMAMIYA Karin

Amamiya Karin’s fraught coming-of-age, including school-refusal and a stint as vocalist for nationalist punk bands, is the stuff of internet lore; it has also provided material for her acclaimed writing, both fictional (Bandgirl a go-go, Kodansha 2006) and autobiographical (Living Hell Paradise, Ota 2000). Most significantly, it has given her writing and activism a fresh and broader reach than often available to those associated with leftist causes such as defense-of-antiwar-Article 9 or labor-and-poverty issues. Indeed, her story challenges a simple right-to-left narrative and prompts reflection on late 1980s-90s Japanese society as a source of such convergences.

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, growing inequality and bleak prospects for youth became subjects that could no longer be ignored. Amamiya became prominent both for her incisive analyses and actions, whether in demonstrations or rescue of the truly desperate. Her 2007 award -winning (from the Japanese Congress of Journalists) book, Make Us Live! Youth Turned into Refugees (Ota 2007), showed how the neoliberal ideology of personal responsibility earlier applied to political cases such as the young hostages held in Iraq was now being presented as the guiding moral principle for the increasing numbers of young people systematically excluded from earning a living wage. 

Long associated with May Day observances for “Freedom and Survival,” Amamiya, like many others, has taken on the issue of nuclear power. The results of her study of a problem that she, like the great majority of people the world over, had previously ignored, found one expression in The Problem of Nuclear Power: For Fourteen and Up (Kawade 2011). She regretted her own inattention to nuclear power despite the fact that she herself “in the course of her involvement with the ‘precariat’ [“precarious” + “proletariat”], had questioned the ‘structure of a society that necessitated sacrificing somebody.’” In the aftermath of March 11, she understood that “this structure was precisely applicable to the nuclear issue as well. And what complicated it was the inextricable relationship nuclear power had to regional economies and employment opportunity” (“Demo for Putting an End to Nuclear Power,” Episode 183,“Amamiya Karin on the Move,” Magazine 9, April 2011, http://www.magazine9.jp/karin/110406/). The end of 2011 saw her participating in an anti-nuclear OCCUPY movement in front of the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry in an action that brought together the issues of nuclear power and socioeconomic justice.

In addition to her writing, Amamiya is deputy leader of the Anti-poverty Network, member of the editorial board of the independent weekly Shukan Kinyobi, member of the Freeters (“Part-timer, Arbeiter, Freeter, and Foreign Worker”) Union, and a member of the “National Minimum” study group of the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labor Ministry, among numerous other activities.

KomoriBW.jpg  KOMORI Yoichi 

What can a scholar of literature do in a world straddling the crises of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scholar of literature and member of society? University of Tokyo professor Komori Yoichi’s example reveals a restless commitment to bringing together the potential and perils of literature and social existence. His career as a literature scholar was launched by a startlingly fresh approach to the canonical work of modern Japanese literature, Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro [heart/mind] (“The ‘Heart’ That Generates ‘Kokoro,’” Seijo Kokubungaku, March 1985). The ensuing controversy invigorated the field of modern literary studies, with Komori publishing influential books demonstrating poststructuralist approaches to modern Japanese literature. In his afterword to a 2010 collection of his work on Soseki (On Soseki: For the Sake of Survival in the 21st Century, Iwanami), he observes, “From the 1990s on, I decided to shift my publishing to write one book a year addressing what seemed to me the most pressing issue of the day. I was especially conscious of the crisis posed by the mass media’s whetting public appetite for war.” He adds that work on the journal Soseki Studies “was no longer compatible with my work as secretary-general of the Article 9 Association” (350). Indeed, commitment to the Association initiated a routine whereby virtually every weekend is spent speaking to citizens’ groups around the country about how safeguarding the constitutional no-war clause matters to their lives.

A glance at his publications since 2000 shows explicit preoccupation with the Japanese language, beginning with reflections on his own formative years in Prague (Komori Yoichi Meets the Japanese Language, Taishukan 2000), extending to such issues as the emperor’s Japanese, empire and the development of modern literature, the state and “national language” (The Modernity of Japanese (Iwanami 2001). He engages with major contemporary writers—Historical Consciousness and the Novel: On Kenzaburo Oe (Kodansha 2002) or On Haruki Murakami: A Close Reading of Kafka by the Shore (Heibonsha 2006). In addition to other single-authored titles such as Racism (Iwanami Shoten 2006) and Postcolonial (Iwanami Shoten 2001), he has collaborated with scholars in multiple disciplines and people in all walks of life to explore modes of expression and of scholarly endeavor. Long-term collaboration with his friend, the late playwright Inoue Hisashi, resulted in six volumes of edited discussion, A History of Showa Literature (Shueisha 2004).

In his introduction to a volume of fiction by Kobayashi Takiji, a proletarian writer killed by police torture in 1933, Komori writes, “How Takiji might have developed the theme of the antiwar struggle in relation to solidarity that insists on human dignity and individuality can never be known” (The Crab Cannery Ship and Other Novels of Struggle, translated by Zeljko Cipris, University of Hawai’i Press, forthcoming). Komori is currently extending that spirit to show how the struggles against war and continued nuclear reliance require solidarity for the sake of human dignity and individuality.

Ryusawa.jpg  RYUSAWA Takeshi

Humanistic academic publishing in Japan has long been the province of commercial rather than university presses. Heibonsha, which will observe its centennial in 2014, has been one of the pillars of this enterprise. When Ryusawa Takeshi joined after graduating from Keio University, he was assigned to work with scholars who would become towering figures in the postwar intellectual world. One of them, ancient literature scholar Saigo Nobutsuna, enjoined him to organize the study groups held at his house—a daunting assignment for someone with a degree in economics. Such collaboration yielded titles such as Saigo’s The Annotated Kojiki (1975-89, 4 vols.); with Fujita Shozo, Reflections in Intellectual History (1982); with Amino Yoshihiko, Muen Kugai Raku: Freedom and Peace in Medieval Japan (1982). While leading distinguished series such as the Oriental Library, he also promoted the translation of such seminal works as Edward Said’s Orientalism or Fredric Jameson’s The Political Unconscious. As the chief in-house editor, he partnered with Kato Shuichi in producing the 1988, 35-volume edition of the Heibonsha World Encyclopedia. The crisis besetting intellectual publishing prompted him to undertake the digitization of theEncyclopedia in conjunction with Hitachi.

Since leaving Heibonsha, he has devoted himself to starting up and sustaining the East Asia Publishers Conference, comprising publishers and editors from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and China. Commitment to this sort of approach to regional social-political-economic challenges was earlier demonstrated in his securing Toyota Foundation support for An Encyclopedia of North Korean Geography and Culture, a long-languishing, ambitious project (20 volumes), which was completed at last with north-south cooperation and published by the Institute for Peace Affairs. While a pioneer in digital publication, Ryusawa is critical of the frenzy for digitization that continues despite the absence of a “ ‘reading public’ as research and educational institutions are swept up by market forces and the drive for efficiency” (“What Is the Public Character of Books? Reflections Occasioned by the ‘Google Issue’” in Nago Makoto, Endo Kaoru, and Yoshimi Shunya, eds., Shomotsu to eizō no mirai (Iwanami: 2010): 45). The East Asia Publishers Conference was not inspired by a sentimental notion of a premodern region bound by shared literacy, as important as that is; it is, rather, meant to foster a new “community of readers” through identification of works of shared importance and through commitment to thoughtful reading, without which no accumulation of digital archives can be of value.

In addition to the Publishers Conference, Ryusawa continues to lecture on “social thought” at Hosei University, considering the elements (textual, oral, visual, and their combination) that mediate “society” and “thought,” and he is an adviser for the theater troupe Wind (Tokyo Engeki Shudan Kaze), whose repertory includes Bertold Brecht’s Mother Courage for elementary and middle schools.

Takahashi.jpg  TAKAHASHI Tetsuya

As a graduate student of philosophy at the University of Tokyo, Takahashi Tetsuya was focused on mainstream phenomenology. Encountering the work of Jacques Derrida, however, provided a powerful challenge that sent him in new directions, guided by the subject of justice. Grappling with the ethical questions posed by the Holocaust spurred his interest in the history of Japanese aggression in World War II. Since the mid 1990s, he has participated vigorously in debates on historical consciousness and directed his attention to the issues presented by the former military comfort women and the legacy of Japanese colonialism. He has been active in challenging state encroachment on children’s consciousness through its dissemination of “Notebooks of the Heart” and revision of the Fundamental Law of Education. In recent years, he has taken on the relationship between growing inequality and the unholy convergence of neo-liberalism and neo-nationalism. His best-selling book on Yasukuni Shrine (Chikuma 2005) made him a public intellectual, and he has responded generously in his writings and lectures to citizens’ groups on questions of war responsibility, Article 9, and other pressing issues of the day.

Takahashi, a professor at the University of Tokyo, happens to be a native of Fukushima Prefecture. Since March 11, he has traversed the devastated region numerous times. His newly published book, The Sacrificial System: Fukushima Okinawa (Shueisha 2012) draws on his long-standing interest in the structure of sacrifice whereby the vulnerable are forced to accept further exploitation, whether by accommodating US military demands as in Okinawa or accepting the consequences of nuclear disaster, including laboring to bring it under control, as in Fukushima. Calling nuclear power itself a sacrificial system, Takahashi has sketched a scenario of steps to be taken following a nuclear accident by analogy to those proposed by Danish General Frits Holm in a 1928 proposal to wipe out war: in the event of an accident, “the following should constitute a ‘suicide squad’ and be sent into the reactor: the prime minister, the cabinet, the vice-minister and top officials of the Ministry of Energy, Technology, and Industry, the CEO of the power company and top officials, scientists and technical experts who promoted nuclear power. Nor can we overlook the responsibility of urban dwellers, myself included, who imposed the construction of nuclear power plants on rural areas and received the electricity thus generated.

“The point, however, is not who should be sacrificed; it is, rather, to extirpate the system of sacrifice itself” (“Nuclear Power as Sacrificial System,” Nuclear Power and Human Beings, special issue of Asahi Journal, June 2011: 14).

Yokoyu.JPG  YOKOYU Sonoko

In her faculty profile for Chuo University, from which she retired in 2010, Yokoyu Sonoko describes her most pressing goals as establishing clinical education psychology as an academic discipline and safeguarding the dignity and lives of children and youth—a characteristic combination of scholarship and therapeutic practice. The latter is a lifelong response to a need that grows greater each year, with increasing poverty exacerbating the older problems of school refusal, bullying, and social withdrawal along with state encroachment on the rights of children and teachers. Indeed, her career as educator and therapist reflect the unending postwar struggle, first to realize the dream of democratizing education but increasingly, to mitigate the punishing effects of capital and state priorities upon children and youth.

After graduating from the Japan College of Social Work, Yokoyu worked as a middle-school teacher in Chiba Prefecture for a dozen years, followed by three years as assistant professor in the department of fine arts at Joshibi University of Art and Design. Appointed professor in the School of Education at Hokkaido University in 1994, she established a pioneering program in clinical education psychology and not only sent out cohorts of psychiatric specialists into schools, hospitals, and even the police force, but also organized a Hokkaido-wide network of physicians, nurses, teachers, parents, and school counselors who could be quickly mobilized to deal with child-related crises. 

Since retiring from Chuo University in 2010, Yokoyu continues to serve in leadership and consultative capacities with the Japan Branch of the United Nations NGO for the Rights of the Child, the Hokkaido Association for Child Abuse Prevention, the Society for the Study of Children’s Human Rights, the Japan Association of Synthetic Anthropology, and the Yokoyu Sonoko Institute for Clinical Education Psychology. The afterword to her textbook, Clinical Education Psychology: Love, Healing, Human Rights— and Recovery(Iwanami 2002) indicates that the nine years required for completion and the many manuscript pages tossed away were not only a result of the youth of the discipline but a reflection of “myself as researcher and myself as therapist being torn apart” (284). A recent publication, a painstaking translation and afterword for the Spanish journalist and artist José Antonio Tassiés’s picture book, You Whose Names Were Stolen [Noms Robats (Nombres Robandos) 2010] is an impassioned call to the victims, victimizers, and bystanders of bullying (Saela 2011). Yokoyu’s extensive writing is complemented by her gift for action, especially for creating networks large and small. One of them mobilized after March 11 to collect used cars for teachers in Tohoku who had lost their means of transportation and so much more.


Sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Japan Studies Committee of the University of Chicago.

For more information, email or call 773-702-8647.

A related film screening of Fukushima: Memories of a Lost Landscape by Yojyu Matsubayashi will take place Friday, March 9 at 7:30pm at the International House.