Introduction

This MIT and Harvard co-taught course examines Japanese history and uncovers the skills and questions involved in reading history through digital imagery. The introductory module considers methodologies historians use to “visualize” the past, followed by three modules that explore the themes of Westernization, in Commodore Perry’s 1853-54 expedition to Japan; social protest, in Tokyo’s 1905 Hibiya Riot; and modernity, as seen in the archives of the major Japanese cosmetics company, Shiseido.

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The course will cover the following topics in four modules:

  • Module 0: Introduction: New Historical Sources for a Digital Age (Professors Dower, Gordon, Miyagawa). Digitization has dramatically altered historians' access to primary sources, making large databases of the visual record readily accessible. How is historical methodology changing in response to this seismic shift? How can scholars, students, and the general public make optimal use of these new digital resources?
  • Module 1: Black Ships & Samurai (Professor Dower). Commodore Matthew Perry's 1853-54 expedition to force Japan to open its doors to the outside world is an extraordinary moment to look at by examining and comparing the visual representations left to us by both the American and Japanese sides of this encounter. This module also addresses the rapid Westernization undertaken by Japan in the half century following the Perry mission.
  • Module 2: Social Protest in Imperial Japan: The Hibiya Riot of 1905 (Professor Gordon). The dramatic daily reports from participants in the massive "Hibiya Riot" in 1905, the first major social protest in the age of "imperial democracy" in Japan, offer a vivid and fresh perspective on the contentious domestic politics of an emerging imperial power.
  • Module 3: Modernity in Interwar Japan: Shiseido & Consumer Culture (Professors Dower, Gordon, Weisenfeld). Exploring the vast archives of the Shiseido cosmetics company opens a fascinating window on the emergence of consumer culture, modern roles for women, and global cosmopolitanism from the 'teens through the 1920s and even into the era of Japanese militarism and aggression in the 1930s. This module will also tap other Visualizing Cultures units on modernization and modernity.

The course is based on the MIT "Visualizing Cultures" website devoted to image-driven research on Japan and China since the 19th century (visualizingcultures.mit.edu).

What you'll learn:

  • Methodologies to "visualize" Japanese history between the 1850s and 1930s
  • An understanding of Westernization, social protest, modernity in Japanese history through digital imagery
  • Strategies for learning--and teaching--history through visual sources

NOTES:

UTokyo001x: Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, by University of Tokyo, follows in this series.

For MIT students: VJx will be part 21F.027J Visualizing Japan in the Modern World, a residential course taught by Professor Miyagawa, Fall 2015.

In addition to MITx and HarvardX, this project is supported by the U.S. Japan Foundation, the University of Tokyo, and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.

Meet The Faculty

John Dower

John Dower

Professor Emeritus

John W. Dower is a Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder, in 2002, of MIT's "Visualizing Cultures" project, a website that breaks new ground in the scholarly use of visual materials to reexamine the experience of Japan and China in the modern world. As of 2014, eleven of the presentations on this multi-unit site were authored by him. Dower’s 1999 book Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II won the U.S. National Book Award for Nonfiction, the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, the Bancroft Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, and the John K. Fairbank Prize of the American Historical Association. Dower earned a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Amherst College in 1959, and a Ph.D. in History and Far Eastern Languages from Harvard University in 1972. He expanded his doctoral dissertation, a biography of former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru, into the book Empire and Aftermath. His many other publications include a selection of writings by E. Herbert Norman and a study of mutual images during World War II entitled War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. Dower was the executive producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of California-San Diego. He has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1991, and was honored with the American Historical Association's "Award for Scholarly Distinction" in 2013.

Andrew Gordon

Andrew Gordon

Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History

Andrew Gordon is the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University. His teaching and research focus primarily on modern Japan. He has also taught Japan’s premodern history and courses on comparative history of labor. His most recent publication is Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2011), on the emergence of the modern consumer in Japan, using the sewing machine as window on that story. An earlier book, Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan (University of California Press, 1991) won the John King Fairbank Prize in 1992 for the best book on modern East Asian history, and was a finalist for the 1992 Arisawa Hiromi Prize for the best book on Japan. His textbook, A Modern History of Japan, was published in fall 2002 by Oxford University Press, and in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean translations. The third edition was published in 2013. Gordon has served as chair of the Harvard History Department (2004-07) and director of the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies (1998-2004 and 2010-2011). Before joining the Harvard faculty he was a member of the history department at Duke. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1981 in History and East Asian Languages. In 2014 he was elected as member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Shigeru Miyagawa

Shigeru Miyagawa

Professor of Linguistics and Kochi-Majiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Shigeru Miyagawa has been at MIT since 1991. He is Professor of Linguistics and Kochi-Majiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture. He also holds a joint project professorship at the University of Tokyo, where he is Director of Online Education. He has been the Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Committee, and was on the original MIT committee that proposed OpenCourseWare. He has helped to start OpenCourseWares around the world. For his work with OCW, he was awarded the President’s Award for OCW Excellence from the Global OpenCourseWare Consortium. He is also Co-director of Visualizing Cultures (visualizingcultures.mit.edu) with the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, John W. Dower, which was awarded MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award. He is also the producer of the multimedia program, StarFestival, which was awarded the Distinguished Award at the Multimedia Grandprix 2000 (Japan), and a regional Best of Show at the 1997 MacWorld Exposition. For his work in technology and education, he has been recognized with the Irwin Sizer Award For the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education, and “Shapers of the Future” by the educational technology magazine Converge. In linguistics, he is the author of Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order, Leading Linguists Series (Routledge, 2012), Why Agree? Why Move? Unifying Agreement-based and Discourse Configurational Languages, published by MIT Press (2010), and co-editor of Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics published by the Oxford University Press (2008), along with over fifty articles on various linguistics topics. He received his B.A. from the International Christian University in 1975 and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1980.

Gennifer Weisenfeld

Gennifer Weisenfeld

Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University

Gennifer Weisenfeld is Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. Her field of research is modern and contemporary Japanese art history, design, and visual culture. Her first book Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1905-1931 (University of California Press, 2002) addresses the relationship between high art and mass culture in the aesthetic politics of the avant-garde in 1920s Japan. And her most recent book Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923 (University of California Press, 2012, Japanese edition, Kantō Daishinsai no Sōzōryoku: Saigai to Fukkō no Shikaku Bunkaron, Seidosha, forthcoming 2014) examines how visual culture has mediated the historical understanding of Japan’s worst national disaster of the twentieth century. In addition to co-editing the volume Crossing the Sea: Essays on East Asian Art in Honor of Professor Yoshiaki Shimizu, with Gregory Levine and Andrew Watsky (Princeton University Press, 2012), she has written numerous journal articles, including several on the history of Japanese design, such as, “‘From Baby’s First Bath’: Kaō Soap and Modern Japanese Commercial Design” (The Art Bulletin, September 2004) and the core essay on MIT’s award-winning website Visualizing Cultures on the Shiseido company’s advertising design. She is currently working on a new book on the history of Japanese advertising and commercial design titled The Fine Art of Persuasion: Corporate Advertising Design, Nation, and Empire in Modern Japan.

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