Text Box: 2002 - 2003 ScheduleGraduate Student Colloquium in East Asian StudiesCenter for East Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania

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Fall 2002

September 20:  Initial meeting

Sept 27:  Stray Dog by Akira Kurosawa.
          Meet in Cherpak Lounge, Williams Hall 5th Floor.

Oct 18:   Kristin Williams.  "Demonizing Women of the Modern Empire: Tsubouchi Shôyô's En no Gyôja and Motherhood (Good, Wise, or Otherwise)"

Oct 24:   Rika Saito.  "New Trends in Research on Covert Policy in Japanese Language"

Nov 1:    Tom Radice.  "Between Use and Uselessness:  Zhuangzi on Death and Politics" abstract

Nov 8:    Gavin Walker.  "Thinking the Topos of the Void: Site and Event in Nishida and Badiou" abstract

Spring 2003

Jan 31:   Organizational Meeting.

Feb 7:    Mike Laver. "The First Rule of Strategy: Never Start a Land War in Asia!" abstract

Feb 14:   Movie: In the Mood for Love. Mandarin[?] with English subtitles.

Please submit a paper if you would like to present this semester or next semester.

Last spring's schedule (Spring 2002).

November 1 (top)  Tom Radice

Between Use and Uselessness:  Zhuangzi on Death and Politics

Usually, Zhuangzi's view of death is described by referring to several famous anecdotes that argue that death is nothing to be feared.  However, there are other anecdotes relating that use the fear of death as a reason why one should not get involved in politics.  This paper analyzes this apparent tension in the text and reconciles them through Zhuangzi's concepts of "uselessness" and "transformation."  The end result is a more complex view of death than is normally attributed to Zhuangzi.

November 8 (top)  Gavin Walker

Thinking the Topos of the Void: Site and Event in Nishida and Badiou

Perhaps Nishida Kitarô's (1870-1945) most lasting and influential concept, the logic of topos (basho no ronri) has recently seen a wider critical reception in western languages, but as of yet there have been notably few attempts to consider Nishida's thinking in dialogue with other prominent philosophers of topos. In the last two decades, the French philosopher Alain Badiou has proposed in his major work L'être et L'événement a theory of the event in which a topological vocabulary is deployed in terms that resonate with those of Nishida's earlier work. I propose that a dialogue between Nishida's "topos of nothingness" (mu no basho) and Badiou's "evental site" (site événementiel) is now overdue, and that such a dialogue may give us fruitful results which not only put Nishida into question within a contemporary framework, but that also in turn put Badiou's work into conversation with a period of philosophical production, that is, Japan between the years 1910 and 1945, that has seen little to no attention in contemporary "Continental" philosophy.

The more we can insert and demonstrate as conceptually rigorous the necessity of Nishida (and other figures) in the theoretical output of the world of thinking, the more we are also militating against what Naoki Sakai has labeled the dangerous tendency "Return to the West/Return to the East." Part of what I attempt to do in this paper is to set up a conceptual genealogy which naturally leads us in thinking through Nishida and through Badiou without relying on the unstable category of comparison.

Further, I want to suggest that Nishida's logic of topos has been misinterpreted, or at least underinterpreted. With explicit reference to Nishida's own inexcusable justification of Japanese fascism, the conception of a topological thinking has been deployed by those inimical to Nishida's thought as "devastating" evidence of an implicitly nation-alized philosophy, when in fact, as the proposed dialogue with Badiou will reveal, Nishida's theory of topos is a radical thinking of a generic transformative locus. When the logic of topos is read in combination with Nishida's other major theoretical concept, the notion of a "predicative logic" (jutsugoteki ronri shugi), it neither follows inherently nor necessarily that Nishida's own atrocious politics can be thought from the standpoint of his philosophy. Thus we are faced with the likelihood that Nishida's political engagement and related writings constitute a fundamental betrayal of the radical possibilities of his own thought, an idea which may allow Nishida-philosophy to enter into wider dialogue with a range of heretofore unencountered figures.

February 7 (top) Mike Laver

"The First Rule of Strategy: Never Start a Land War in Asia!"

In 1592, the third of three great unifiers of the hitherto fractured Japanese polity chose to invade China via Korea. The self styled future Emperor of Asia, however, never managed to make it past Korea as his armies became embroiled in an increasingly brutal and pointless war.

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This page created and maintained by Kristin Williams.  Last updated 11/08/02.