Saturday, May 9, 2009

Utopian Studies

This just in from Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi:

My wife Reiko and I we're talking about it, and we really think you ought to move in the direction of utopian studies. Think about it, it’s a burgeoning new field, everyone around you’s involved in it— N-sensei’s recent book deals with utopian/dystopian discourses in modern Russian literature; recent graduate D. Gabrakova has written extensively on the subject; and Professor Y's recent work is concerned with “the process by which a physical reality emerges from abstract ideas,” as she explains in this paper about how the utopian visions of the Taishō period informed Mushanokōji’s commune, Atarashiki mura.

There’s also a Society for Utopian Studies with its own Utopian Studies Journal and annual meeting, as well as this Tokyo University journal called Utopia: Here and There.

And, most importantly, Ishikawa Jun grappled throughout his career with the problem of utopia, of how utopian abstractions, often originating in art, are pushed into the intellectual and political spheres where they harden into ideologies that, more often than not, turn dystopian. (Think, for example, of the Kyoto School of Nishida, Tanabe, Miki, Abe, etc.)

As Susan Napier puts it, Ishikawa repeatedly and “explicitly undermines the promise of a better world.” His novella Taka (1953), you’ll remember, deals with the post-war clash between utopian leftists and the dystopian conservatives who seized control after the U.S. decided on a gyaku-kosu (“reverse course”) in order to curb communist influence. Shion monogatari (1956) assumes the form of a pastoral utopia, while its subject is dark and sinister. Omae no teki wa omae da (1961) is a play that explores the broken dreams of utopian builders. The only exception I can think of is his Tora no kuni (1961), in which, I’m told, an Arcadia-like tōgenkyō is actually achieved.

At any rate, give some thought to what I’ve said. And remember, in most cases it’s your dissertation topic which chooses you, and not the other way around.

-Nabil al-Tasnimi


Anonymous said...

Good plan. For now, use this book as your starting point:
The Utopian Reader, by Lyman T. Sargent


Anonymous said...

For those who don’t know, Mushanokoji was a rather unpleasant aristocratic chap who was one of the central figures of the Shirakaba-ha. Despite being heavily influenced by Tolstoy and Soseki, he eventually “developed a full-blown egoism that split off entirely from Tolstoy’s self-denying ascetic self and Soseki’s emphasis on the civic rights and duties of the individual” (Yiu, 217).

-Sally Suzuki, Beholdmyswarthyface Media Director

Anonymous said...

having burnt myself many a time I think you should learn pride in 根性焼き and kiss Sally Suzuki instead of whine like baby I offered you to fight me rather than pilfer an amount of money copied from a half-Jew which is more than you will ever be as Brain Wilson said be true to your blog (and it's extensive cast of fake people).

-Josh Landers

Peony said...

Hi Ryan, I agree with Josh that you should be spening more time on the noble pursuit of kissing Sally's -- or better Mabel's-- ass; while I don't have an opinion about you and utopia (well, I do have an opinion but will save it till later), I was looking at the wiki article about the village and saw each member gets "pocket money"-- don't you wonder how much?

Anonymous said...


You married outside the tribe? Are there not laws in Islam that forbid intermarriage?

Mrs. Marina Thomas

Anonymous said...

If you're going to deal with Ishikawa's utopian works, you'll want to incorporate the following: the Hegelian dialectic of utopian/dystopia and the cyclical nature of the process; Nietzche’s notion of eternal return; rekishi no hitsuzen; and Ishikawa's phrase "zetsubou kara no shuppatsu," which appears in several of his works and which is a key theme throughout.