Robert Stolz‘s new book explores the emergence of an environmental turn in modern Japan. Bad Water: Nature, Pollution; Politics in Japan, 1870-1950 (Duke University...

Robert Stolz‘s new book explores the emergence of an environmental turn in modern Japan. Bad Water: Nature, Pollution; Politics in Japan, 1870-1950 (Duke University Press, 2014) guides readers through the unfolding of successive eco-historical periods in Japan. Stolz charts the transformations of an “environmental unconscious” lying at the foundation of modern social and political thought. Bad Water begins by describing the establishment of the autonomous individual as a political unit, tracing the relationship between the Meiji liberal subject and the environment beginning in the 1870s. With the emergence of toxic flows that penetrated the body, and in light of the Ashio Copper Mine incident as Japan’s first experience with industrial-scale pollution, nature and politics were increasingly difficult to keep separated. Stolz looks closely at the work of Tanaka Shōzō – Japan’s famous “first conservationist” – in this context, from Tanaka’s jikiso appeal to the Meiji Emperor in 1901 through an environmental turn in which he conducted river pilgrimages and developed an ecological philosophy of “flow” (nagare) and “poison” (doku). Bad Water also considers the work of anarchist Ishikawa Sanshirō (1876-1956) and Snow Brand Dairy founder Kurosawa Torizō (1885-1982), two thinkers who took up the issue of the relationship between nature, the individual, and society after Tanaka’s death in 1913. It is a fascinating and important study that will be of wide interest to scholars and readers of the histories of Japan, environmentalism, hygienic modernity, and ecology. Enjoy!

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