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Research Seminars



Jan Schmidt
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium Shifting Horizons of Expectation During the First World War in Japan - 'Postwar Discourses', 1915–1919, as Part of War Experience and Their Consequences for Political Communication Regarding 'Reconstruction' (kaizō)


18 Dec 2017

4:30 p.m.
4.36 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus



Only recently has research on 'the future' in Japan's past gained some momentum, yet the First World War years and its mass production of visions - and accompanying demands - for the post-war period did not attract much attention yet. In many survey histories of the First World War it seems still to be a deep-rooted assumption that a certain hierarchy of war experience existed; for instance, the more 'real' experience of the societies of the main belligerent European powers and their colonies being subsumed to mass killing on the battlefields and the effects of a totalizing war logic at 'home fronts' - pitted against somehow secondary 'spaces of experience' of smaller and neutral powers and their populaces. The Japanese Empire's military involvement in the First World War certainly did not reach that degree and - especially if one excludes the Siberian Intervention - human losses were comparatively 'low', while, on the other hand, the war led to an immense economic grow. But this does not rule out other patterns of modern war experience, which became common throughout the 20th century. In an age of accelerated mediatization the war and its experience(s) was brought to Japanese recipients on a daily basis in a variety of mass media, and only months after Japan's entry into the war in August 1914 a large-scale debate on its consequences for the immediate future began, which in itself constituted a part of the Japanese war experience of the First World War. In the words of Reinhard Koselleck a reorientation of the 'horizon of expectation' took place after the war had ushered in a new 'space of experience', while the partial devaluation of the former prevalent orientation on Europe due to mass-slaughter and a contradictory global propaganda war helped to free up a discursive space to be filled by manifold 'postwar discourses'. In the lecture two large collections of essays on the post-war future from 1915 and 1918 will be compared in order to explain key mechanisms of a shifting horizon of expectations, focusing on the consequences for political communication regarding 'reconstruction' and 'reform' in the 1920s.


Co-sponsored by the Department of Japanese Studies, SMLC, HKU.


All are welcome. No registration is required.