How did Japanese academics study their "fields" in places like Manchuria and Inner Mongolia in the transwar decades? How did they transform in the postwar, under the US Occupation, and after? Into the Field: Human Scientists of Transwar Japan (Stanford UP, 2019) is the first monograph on the collective biography of this cohort of professional Japanese intellectuals, or in Miriam L. Kingsberg Kadia's words, "the men of one age."
Kadia observes that during the transwar decades (1930s-1060s), these "men of one age" jointly embraced a set of unchanging assumptions regarding epistemology that was anchored in the ideal of "objectivity." The scholarship, or gakujutsu, that they aimed to produce were concerned with the quest of universal laws governing human society and the natural world, the use of a comprehensively delineated method to assure rigor in pursuit of "truth," and impartiality. Those who studied the human sciences applied the ideal of "objectivity" to the study of Self and Others in Japanese colonized and occupied lands.
Following the lives of these transwar human scientists into the fields, Kadia reveals that these "men of one age," such as Izumi Seiichi, were both creators and creations of imperial epistemology. Kadia points out that although the duration of Japanese imperial control was too short to apply their academic findings to policy in much of the empire, Izumi and his colleagues "enjoyed outsized influence in justifying the empire as a hierarchy of confraternal races ruled for their own benefit by the putatively superior Japanese."
The US Occupation in the postwar allowed the continuation of the pursuit of "objective" knowledge for the Japanese human scientists, as well as opening new avenues for them. Kadia argues that "what changed after 1945 were the values understood to constitute objectivity," namely ideals vaunted as characteristically American: democracy, capitalism, and peace.
During the Cold War, Kadia reminds us, the US saw strategic potential in Japan's studies of East Asia and Oceania, and the Japanese academics largely "upheld the convenient fiction of their reluctant cooperation with and quiet opposition to the former government." To rehabilitate Japan's scholarly reputation, the Japanese academics were integrated into a new transnational intellectual community that both reflected and supported US hegemony, although some Japanese academics resisted the subordination of domestic progress to grand strategy.
Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara.