Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 4
Postcolonial Studies in Comparative Perspectives: India, Philippines and Japan
Organizers: Yoshiko Nagano, Kanagawa University and Chiharu Takenaka, Meiji Gakuin University

This panel is a modest attempt to present provocative discussions of postcolonial studies from the perspectives of Asian studies. Since the end of the 1980s, much has been written about the "postcolonial," yet it is not still clear what is "postcolonial," because this term has been differently used or interpreted. In spite of the wider variety of its interpretation, we might positively understand this concept as a means to explore new dimensions in Asian studies. This is because this concept enables us to disclose the pervasive colonial legacy in the way of thinking of peoples and its cultural influence that has had detrimental effects on the societies even after independence.
This panel brings together four papers which raise and discuss various issues concerning the conceptualization or the interpretation of historical facts in three countries such as India, the Philippines and Japan, in relation to the postcolonial studies. The four paper presenters give their own interpretations of the concept of "postcolonial" and explore new approaches in Asian studies, encompassing their respective fields such as history, comparative literature, political science and anthropology. If we understand postcolonial studies as part of cultural studies, interdisciplinary approaches might be useful in opening up the possibility of deploying the concept of the "postcolonial" for reconstructing interpretations of Asian societies from their own perspectives.

1) Yoshiko Nagano, Kanagawa University. "Filipino Intellectuals and Postcolonial Theory: A Case of E. San Juan, Jr."

The 1990s saw the remarkable transformation of the trends and directions in the Philippine studies, in terms of the growing interest on colonial discourses in historiography, political science and literature. The new trends and directions in the Philippine studies might be understood as a part of the reflection of the phenomenal rise of cultural studies in the Western hemisphere since the 1980s. However, it is particularly important for us to understand them in the context of Philippine historical experiences before and after independence throughout the 20th century.
This paper discusses the distinctive features of the writings of E. San Juan, Jr., focusing on his understandings of postcolonial theory, in the light of the rise of new trends in the Philippine studies. San Juan is a scholar on comparative literature and is widely known as one of the most prominent Filipino critics on the postcolonial studies. Considering a fact that the concept of "postcolonial" is a new one and still has very much ambiguity, in this paper, first I clarify my way of understanding its concept. Second I critically analyze the critical approaches of San Juan toward the postcolonial theory and his conceptual background to criticize it. Third, I grope for the positive linkages between the postcolonial studies and the new directions in the Philippine studies.

2) Caroline S. Hau, Kyoto University. "Strongmen and the State: Critiquing Charismatic Authority in Philippine Political Discourse."

This paper focuses on recent scholarly articulations of "strongmen politics" in the Philippines through an analysis of John Sidel's Capital, Coercion and Crime and Patricio Abinales' Making Mindanao. Writing against the grain of academic and popular acceptance of the explanatory validity and enduring power of "traditional" patron-client relations in shaping Philippine politics, Sidel's concept of "bossism" and Abinales' concept of "strongmen" both underscore instead the historical process and fraught legacies of American colonial state formation as the condition of possibility of postcolonial strongmen politics in the Philippines. Drawing their case studies not from the capital city of Manila, but from outside the "center", both works point to local negotiations of state power as crucial to the production, maintenance, and contestation of strongmen politics in the country. But these works diverge crucially on the question of the strongmen's relationship to the political system and their manipulation of coercive and socio-economic resources in the course of their participation in electoral politics. Such a divergence in interpretation is revealing in that it brings ineluctably into focus not just the issue of what kind of responses are possible or available to Filipino strongmen and the people who make up their constituents or "followers", but of the manner in which the discourse on strongmen itself participates in the construction of strongmen power and responses to it in postcolonial Philippines.

3) Chiharu Takenaka, Meiji Gakuin University. "Quest of Mahatma Gandhi: Situating the Subaltern Studies in Indian Political Discourse."

Postcolonial, if taken simply as 'after colonialism', leaves us with a puzzle. It is interesting to observe the proliferation of 'postcolonial' concepts among concerned scholars exactly when the nation-state, the very political institution to succeed colonialism, now faces serious challenges within and without in the age of globalization.
In early 1980s, a group of historians, later known from their collective work, the Subaltern Studies, aimed to search for alternative writings to Indian historiography of the time. In contrast to either orthodox nationalist historiography or counter-part of communist historiography, their focus was on the unwritten figures of history, as shown in their reference to Gramsci's concept of 'subaltern'. Re-interpretation of the historical materials left by the colonial authority went together with pursuing direct popular voices in scattered records. As the charismatic figure of anti-colonial struggles, the Subaltern Studies historians naturally took Mahatma Gandhi as the main subject of research. They juxtaposed the images of Mahatma as 'gods of peoples', deeply rooted in the subaltern discourse, with the constructed image of 'Father of Nation' as a political leader, deliberately manifested in the elite discourse.
The postmodernist intervention of Gayatri C. Spivak and main stream cultural studies, however, have left Gandhi out of focus and forgotten as an agenda. In fact, the Subaltern Studies group ceased to be a forum of historians. They led themselves not only the deconstruction of nationalist or Marxist historiography but also the concepts of 'nation' and 'history'. It was argued that the right-wingers came up to fill this vacuum and provided a more coarse, if popular, reading of history. The Subaltern Studies scholars, therefore, are held responsible for the emergence of Hindutva Historiography.
How can we write history today, facing the postmodernists on one side, the right-wing ideologues on the other? To answer this question, my paper focuses on the way that Mahatma Gandhi has been analyzed or neglected in the Subaltern Studies, and tries to situate the Subaltern Studies as an intellectual endeavor to analyze postcolonial nationalism, which has given a tremendous impact on academic discourse beyond Indian historiography.

4) Toru Komma, Kanagawa University. "Memory and History: Challenge of Writing a History of Tanushimaru Town, Kyushu, Japan"

Postcolonial studies have proved science to be an essential device for maintaining the establishment. Then, a new scholarly paradigm is to be set up through dissent from the establishment. This, however, could be a paralogism, for it calls on amateurs for practicing academic activities involving professionals. The History of Tanushimaru (1996-7) (in Japanese) is a successful example which has overcome the puzzling problem.
The editorial board realized that history was composed of discourses carried in historical documents and that the commoners were totally wiped out from most historical scenes. It accordingly rethought the meanings of the publication. Hence an epoch-making paradigm of "local history of and for the commonalties." The book acquired the residents' support and nation-wide responses as well. Newspapers often commented on it writing that it was realistic and innovative enough to adopt the concept of seken (meaning Japanese Lebenswelt ), instead of foreign "individual," to describe people and that it aimed to do away with conventionalities of seken.
The board chose the policy owing to the overwhelming actuality that nothing elucidated commoners' daily routine as long as it was faithful to the positivistic "documents-for-documents"-sake" policy. At last it introduced postcolonial fieldwork of anthropology, for it attached much account of multiple realities expressed by residents themselves rather than facts recorded in archives.
The History of Tanushimaru exemplifies an alternative to "history as a science" favored by local governments as institutions and shows that local autonomy is an everyday arena for postcolonial practices.

Discussant: Alexander Horstmann, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies


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