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Russia and Japan: Beyond West and East

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Organizer: Olga Solovieva

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This interdisciplinary seminar invites scholars of Japan and Russia to address the topic of Russo-Japanese cultural relations as a challenge to traditional binary views on the exchange of knowledge between West and East. The development of cultural relations between Russia and Japan in literature, film, visual and performing arts, and other fields took place in tandem with — and in spite of — rapidly shifting political considerations between the two nations. However, rather than viewing such exchanges exclusively through the prism of political and ideological hierarchies and power relations, the papers in this seminar seek to enrich and expand our understanding of this transnational dynamic as it manifests between two national traditions that do not fit securely into either category. Looking west to Europe and east to Asia, conceptualizations of Russian identity have always engaged Russia’s in-betweenness in self-conscious ways; similar tensions come to the fore in Japan following the Meiji Restoration and its attendant efforts to achieve an accelerated modernization on par with the West while maintaining sovereignty as a nation of the East. The goals of this seminar are to offer a range of perspectives on the development of Russo-Japanese cultural relations in both domestic and global contexts and to advance the notion that the very categories of “West” and “East” are themselves multilayered and polyvalent, riddled with complex intellectual and social tensions and internal conflicts of interest. The multidirectional dynamic of cultural exchange between Russia and Japan was one conducive to cross-fertilization and formation of knowledge. The case of Russia and Japan thus provides material for a theoretical rethinking and reconfiguration of the East-West paradigm, not only in terms of socio-geographical divides, but in terms of more complex cultural and political tensions and marginalities within both cultures. This seminar invites proposals for papers that explore any aspect of the cultural, artistic, and intellectual relationship between Japan and Russia. We are especially interested in the research which triangulates the Japanese- Russian intellectual exchange via the regions of Central Asia and Middle East, larger East and South Asia, Latin America, Africa and Australia.

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