My fellow panelists were Juergen Melzer (Yamanashi Gakuin University), W. Evan Young (Dickinson College), and Elijah Greenstein (Princeton University). Our discussant (not pictured) was Yukiko Koshiro (Nihon University).
Transfers of Knowledge in Japan’s Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, bodies of knowledge in Japan were defined and disseminated in innovative, disruptive, and unexpected ways. This panel brings together scholars from Japan and North America to explore the various methods by which knowledge transfer took place in different arenas of society ranging from the household to the factory floor. Young examines diaries written before the widespread implementation of hospital medicine to demonstrate how families living in the nineteenth-century city of Edo documented their own illnesses and recorded medical knowledge that was passed down through the generations. Greenstein explores the role of businessmen as conduits for information about the Allied mobilization of shipping during WWI and the impact of that information on Japan’s shipping policies in the interwar period. Melzer analyzes how foreign engineers communicated with their Japanese counterparts using the highly effective medium of blueprints during Japan’s transformation into an aviation nation. Mayo traces the history of two dictionaries that emerged in opposition to one another with the shared aim of redefining and reinterpreting the Japanese language for youth in the postwar period. Finally, in her role as discussant, Koshiro will further explore some of the shared insights into knowledge transfer raised in each of the presentations. By keeping the presentations short, this panel aims to involve the audience in a discussion that will conclude the session.
Abstract for My Presentation (Revised)
Dueling Dictionaries: Re-defining Japanese in the Post-War Period
Modern dictionaries consolidate national and cultural identity by defining a body of knowledge about a language, packaging it into an easily consumable format, and distributing it to a mass public. In this manner, the texts transfer knowledge from one generation to the next, often with notable additions or omissions. This paper investigates two distinctive, yet related dictionaries that emerged after 1945 to redefine language and culture for students in Japan’s post-war era. While previous scholarship has focused on the interpersonal conflict between their respective editors that produced the two texts, this paper analyzes the theoretical frameworks underpinning each one. Sanseidō’s 1960 dictionary, under the editorial leadership of Kenbō Hidetoshi, promised a break with the past by offering a radically contemporary, descriptive vision of the Japanese language based almost exclusively on current usage. His dictionary was well-received, and Sanseidō continued producing new editions of it, but in 1972 the company cannibalized its sales by publishing a new dictionary under Kenbō’s colleague, Yamada Tadao. Yamada’s idiosyncratic entries, often drawn from his own experiences, gave a new voice to a more classical tradition, with a prescriptive view on the Japanese language. This paper shows how the two reference works came to embody different responses to the legacy of war.