Political Circumstances and Political Choices: A Reading of the Fluctuations of Japanese "Modernity" in North American History-Writing, 1940-2000

Hosokawa, Lisa M.

E. Herbert Norman's Japan's Emergence as a Modern State put into operation the category of "modernity" for North American history-writing about Japan. After 1940, uses of "modernity" existed in tension with relative disuses of the category, and the category itself changed definition. This paper tracks the variable of "modernity" in relation to variables of political circumstances and political choices made by historians starting with the publication of Norman's book and continuing through the publication of Harry Harootunian's Things Seen and Unseen in 1988. It concludes with a brief consideration of scholarship of the 1990s.

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December 10, 2013


This paper was written for a graduate seminar given by Donald Roden at Columbia in 2001. In 2013, I learned that copies of the paper are still being circulated among graduate students at Columbia and at Harvard. I am posting an unaltered PDF copy of the paper to Academic Commons with the understanding that it might be helpful to others just starting out in the field of Japanese history. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.