Nadine Willems

Mar 8, 2021

Ishikawa Sanshiro's Geographical Imagination

Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

Leiden University Press 2020

Ishikawa Sanshirō (1876-1956) was a journalist, intellectual, and self-proclaimed socialist active in early twentieth-century Japan. In Ishikawa Sanshirō’s Geographical Imaginations: Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth-Century Japan (Leiden UP, 2020), Nadine Willems follows the life and travels of this thinker, who has been known as a “radical anarchist” as well as “the conscience of Japan.”

During his seven-and-a-half-year self-imposed exile in England, Belgium, and France following the High Treason Incident, Ishikawa Sanshirō mingled with thinkers and activists such as the English social philosopher Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) and lived with the family of Paul Reclus (1858-1941), the nephew of the French anarchist and geographer Elisée Reclus (1830-1905). Reclusian ideas of “social geography” as a politically engaged science that is mindful of the moral responsibilities of geography as a discipline were pivotal to the formation of Ishikawa’s own socio-political model of domin seikatsu (“life of the people of the earth”). However, instead of characterizing Ishikawa as a radical intellectual inspired by Western thought in a narrative of one-directional influence, Willems positions Ishikawa in a transnational network of thinkers that engaged with geographical imaginations and their actualizations.

Willems observes that through his engagements with “grassroots” geography and Buddhist ideas such as interconnectedness, Ishikawa Sanshirō challenged Japan’s modernization, capitalism, and social-Darwinism, proposing instead to “re-humanize” science and embark on experiments in self-sufficient living and the establishment of a loose local network of self-governing farmers’ councils in Japan.

Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Daigengna Duoer

Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation is a digital humanities project mapping transnational and transregional Buddhist networks connecting twentieth-century Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Republican China, Tibet, and the Japanese Empire.
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