Rethinking Japanese History
(Translated by Alan Christy)
Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan 2012
We don’t often make the chance to properly acknowledge the importance of translation to the understanding of history, let alone to talk about it at any length. Alan Christy has done a wonderful service in his careful, elegant, and accessible translation of Amino Yoshihiko‘s Rethinking Japanese History (Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2012). Originally a two-volume Japanese text published in the mid-1990s, Amino’s work is a clearly written account of major themes in Japanese historiography. It is full of the evidence of his self-reflexivity as a scholar who was perpetually learning and transforming his own understanding of history, and simultaneously eager to share that knowledge to help others forge their own paths through the history of Japan and beyond. The chapters range across many topics – pirates and bandits, maritime history, the nature of writing, the assumptions of “agrarian fundamentalism,” pollution, women in history – all the while keeping a thematic cohesion around key points that were central to Amino’s work as a historian. In our conversation, Christy and I spoke about many of these key themes, as well as the practice of translating Amino’s work and the importance of a historiographical mode that is in conversation with ethnographic practice. It is a fascinating work that deserves wide recognition, and it was a great pleasure to talk with Christy about it. Enjoy!