SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Bushidô beyond the Samurai: death and violence in the modern world

Prof Chris Goto-Jones (Leiden University)

Date: 15 January 2014Time: 5:05 PM

Finishes: 15 January 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


Few images of Japan are more intoxicating than that of the honourable samurai.  Indeed, many students and scholars are drawn to the field of Japan Studies by the romantic idea of the samurai and their apparent code of conduct, bushidô.  Until the recent pre-eminence of manga and anime as cultural emblems of Japan, bushidô was unquestionably the most alluring, and remains the most resilient, icon of Japan on the international stage.

And this is no accident: bushidô was explicitly and deliberately created in the twentieth century precisely to serve this function.

This lecture interrogates the meaning and dimensions of bushidô as it arose in modern Japan, elaborating it as a sophisticated and multivalent landscape interacting with the borders of ethics, politics, philosophy, and ideology.  Bushidô emerges through the historical development and invention of multiple canons, each suited to different arenas of social and political life in the twentieth century.  In the end, this lecture argues that bushidô should be seen as a unique but globalized intellectual asset, arising from Japan but not delimited by it.  The bushidô tradition should provide contemporary thinkers (anywhere in the world) with valuable and provocative ways to think through timely and pressing questions of death, violence and duty in the modern world.

Speaker Biography

Chris Goto-Jones is the inaugural chair of Comparative Philosophy & Political Thought at Leiden University, and a professorial research associate of the JRC at SOAS.  He is a 'vici' laureate of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.  Recent work includes, Political Philosophy in Japan: Nishida, the Kyoto School and Co-Prosperity (New York: Routledge, 2005), (ed.) Re-Politicizing the Kyoto School as Philosophy (New York: Routledge, 2008), and A Very Short Introduction to Modern Japan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).  He is presently completing a book for Cambridge University Press, Beyond the Samurai: Bushidô between Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy (2014).

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