Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability
University of Hawaii Press 2016
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network August 10, 2016 Carla Nappi
Morgan Pitelka’s new book looks closely at the material culture of the Three Unifiers of the late sixteenth century in Japan– Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu–in order to foreground the politics of culture in an age of civil war. The chapters of Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability (University of Hawaii Press, 2016), a beautifully illustrated volume that integrates its images centrally within the narrative, do this by examining the role of sociability in the interactions between warlords and other powerful figures, focusing on cultural practices and rituals like tea ceremony and gift exchange. Pitelka’s book aims to relink war and culture in the historiography of early modern Japan. It accomplishes this goal by helping us see commonalities in unusual places: by pointing to the resonance between the acquisition and exchange of art objects and hostages, between tea caddies and skulls and swords and severed heads, between the ambassadorial powers of people and objects. The epilogue of the book continues the story into an analysis of the politics of museum display in postwar Japan, exploring the ways that some modern exhibitions are imbricated in a modern form of spectacular accumulation and considering the implications for how we understand the importance and role of violence in the history of materials and material culture.