Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien nav lang search
Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien


Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
Jochi Kioizaka Bldg. 2F
7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102-0094, Japan
Tel: 03 – 3222 5198, Fax: 03 – 3222 5420


Russian-Japanese Borderlands and the Change of National Consciousness in Japan around 1800

March 21, 2012 / 6.30 P.M.

Julian Plenefisch, Freie Universität Berlin

The Western historiography on Tokugawa Japan’s interaction with the world focuses on the ”opening of Japan” by the United States in 1853. In my talk I argue that the impact of early Russian-Japanese engagements at the end of the 18th century is still too much neglected by Western historiography.

In my talk I will present first results of my PhD research on the discourses among Japanese intellectuals started by early Russian-Japanese engagements. Since the 18th century Russian ships pushed into the Northern Pacific. In 1771 letters by a Hungarian soldier of fortune, who escaped his Russian imprisonment on Kamchatka and landed in Japan, gave the starting point for the so-called “coastal defence literature” among Japanese intellectuals. The talk focuses on this discourse and the formation of borderlands among Russia and Tokugawa Japan in late 18th century as examples for the development of a national consciousness by global entanglements.

My main research question is if intellectual discourse did develop into a new consciousness of a Japanese nation because of Russian encounters around 1800? To answer this question the thesis focuses on different forms of representation of the global and the national respectively the Self and the Other in Japanese intellectual discourse.

Julian Plenefisch is Research Fellow at the Institute of East Asian Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. He studied History and Japanese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and received his MA in 2009. His PhD project analyses a change in national consciousness because of Russian-Japanese encounters in the Northern Pacific about 1800. In 2010 he has been a short-term Guest Lecturer at SOAS, University of London. Currently he is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Social Science, Tokyo University, on the Toshiba International Foundation Scholarship.