Sunday, November 24, 2019

Miriam Kingsberg Kadia's "Into the Field"

Miriam Kingsberg Kadia is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of Moral Nation, which won the Eugene M. Kayden Book Award in 2015.

Kadia applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Into the Field: Human Scientists of Transwar Japan, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls almost at the midpoint of Into the Field, at the beginning of the fourth of eight chapters. This chapter examines the institutions that generated a new, post-imperial understanding of concepts such as “race” and “culture” in early postwar Japan. The first of these was UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization), founded in 1945 to deploy knowledge as a means of preventing another world war. As I argue on page 99, despite—or because—of their recent contributions to militarism and fascism, Japanese scholars were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the organization in the world. In the words of one observer, they became “kamikaze for UNESCO” (this is one of my favorite quotes in the book!). UNESCO also exemplifies the importance of global influences, engagement, and above all funding to human science in early postwar Japan. In the 1950s it sponsored the nation’s first field expedition to Brazil (the subject of Chapter 6).

Page 99 is one of a minority of pages in Into the Field that does not mention the transwar Japanese ethnologist, anthropologist, and archaeologist Izumi Seiichi (1915-1970), around whose career the book is structured. In researching this project, I adopted an ethnographic approach, visiting Izumi’s former field sites from the Andes to the Amazon and from Manchuria to West Papua. But because page 99 deals with a background development at home, it is based on more conventional sources for historians: library and archival materials. It lacks some of the intimate personal detail and drama that appear in the rest of the book.

Yet in fact, Into the Field is not intended as an intellectual biography of one extraordinary individual, but rather as a collective biography (prosopography) of his cohort. Izumi belonged to a generation of human scientists who created knowledge to serve the Japanese empire before 1945, and who subsequently revised that knowledge to suit an aspiring democratic, capitalist, peaceful postwar state. In writing this book, I struggled to strike a balance between following Izumi’s incredible professional life on the one hand, and showing him as representative of larger trends and ideas on the other. Page 99 is an example of how I periodically pause my narration of Izumi’s career to zoom in on the wider context of domestic and global developments.
Learn more about Into the Field at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue