Aya Hino

Modern Knowledge Formation in Japan as Translational Practices.

How did a tradition of knowledge marked by geo-cultural marker of 'Western' become in Japan a mode of knowledge designated as 'modern' or even knowledge per se? My Ph.D. research considers modern knowledge formation in Japan between 1860s and 1900s, not as a history of acquisition of new ideas, theories, and technologies from the 'West' but as a genealogy of epistemic reconfiguration that revolved around practices of translation.

This genealogy was replete with conflicts, contradictions and negotiations, because the fundamental presuppositions that undergirded Western knowledge did not have natural fit with the existing vernaculars of Japanese language. Thus, translation was necessary. But translation is much more than an attempt of establishing equivalence between two languages; it is a conscious labour of anchoring Western knowledge, its presuppositions, its categories, its mode of thinking and reasoning, into the semantic field hitherto imprinted with other knowledge traditions including (neo)Confucianism, Kangaku (漢学) and Kokugaku (国学). Modern knowledge formation in Japan therefore involved not only problems of language, but also problems of cognition. And to translate Western knowledge was to negotiate and reconfigure the epistemic ground for knowledge production.

Weaving together the approach of Begriffsgeschichte and the critique of semantic transparency, my research offers a reading of epistemic negotiation and reconfiguration at three distinctive yet intimately intertwined junctures: between politics and knowledge, whereby the idea of scholarship (pursuit of knowledge) was reconfigured under the 19th century schema of 'becoming modern, being different'; between knowledge and semantic, at which new meanings were encoded to ri (理) and kyūri (窮理) by conceiving knowledge as the subject-object relation; and between semantic and politics, whereby the category of knowing subject was increasingly tied to the national.

A potential contribution of my research is threefold. First and most obviously, it is a deliberate alternative to modernisation theory. My research offers a way of understanding modern knowledge formation in Japan not as a universal linear intellectual progress but as being simultaneously synchronic (becoming modern) and diachronic (being different). Second, in its challenge to the linear progressive model of our understanding, my research points to trances of 'there' / 'then' in 'here' / 'now', to the chronotope of a unified field of self-referential knowledge, which may offer a perspective on the post-war discourses of the Self. And third, my research aims at moving beyond the familiar denouncement of modern knowledge as parochial and European, by turning to the language of textuality, discourse, and différance to account for traces of discursive differences within the tradition of knowledge that we call 'modern' knowledge.

Zuletzt bearbeitet von:: bbsd
Letzte Änderung: 04.03.2024
zum Seitenanfang/up