The ‘F’ Word: ‘Feudal’ Japan in World History

Last week I gave a talk at Okayama University (岡山大学) in a workshop called “Japan in the World, the World in Japan: A Methodological Approach.” The title of my talk was “The ‘F’ Word: ‘Feudal’ Japan in World History” (「F」ワード:世界史における日本の「封建」時代). I spoke about the use of “feudal” (hōken 封建) to explore ways in which medieval Japan was, and continues to be, incorporated into world history. And, I argued that there is a case to be made for continuing to use the term in class to provoke discussions.

feudal
(Photo Credit: Simona Lukminaite)

At least, my intention was to say all of that. I’m usually able to manage my time pretty well, but time got the best of me in this presentation, and I had to condense it down to a barely coherent explanation of gaps in meaning among terms: feudal, hōken (Japanese), and fengjian (Chinese).

The workshop was well-organized and I learned a lot from the various disciplinary perspectives. I’ve already begun using some of the ideas in my classes at Kōgakkan University (皇學館大学).

Afterwards, the participants enjoyed a lively discussion about how to tackle this “global” (グローバル) idea that is sweeping through Japanese higher education. The workshop schedule, participants, and their presentation titles are available in this PDF.