Friday, May 6th- John Person

the Art and Politics of East Asia workshop


John Person

PhD Candidate

Dept. of East Asian Languages & Civilizations

The Intellectual as Metaphor:

Theories of Leadership and Empire in Wartime Japan

(Download Paper Here)

Friday, May 6th


Judd Hall 302

in the

Center for East Asian Studies Conference Room

5835 S. Kimbark Ave.

Chicago, IL. 60637

with discussant Kathryn Tanaka (EALC)


The years between the failed coup attempt in 1936 and the official surrender of Imperial Japan is often remembered as an era in which intellectual discourse was stifled in the midst of state surveillance and censorship. Though the range of possible intellectual expression had indeed been narrowed, this did not mean that it had ceased altogether. This chapter explores attempts by intellectuals to produce a new theoretical paradigm for thinking the ideal form of leadership and Empire through an analysis of the writings of nationalist polemicist Minoda Muneki, the focus of my dissertation, and his criticism of one the most prolific theorists of the Imperial project, Miki Kiyoshi. With the freedom of expression curbed and the rise in the influence of technocratic designers of society and Empire, intellectuals trained in the humanities perceived with dismay a waning in their influence as the leaders of pubic opinion. In this context, the idea of “synthesis” was tagged as a mental capacity unique to the intellectual culture that would give unity and principle to the perceived fragmentary specialization of technocracy. Yet, at the same time, they struggled to discover a way in which their theoretical innovations could be made to produce the desired effects in society. Despite these struggles, intellectuals as diverse as Minoda and Miki continued to harbor the belief that the discovery of a new intellectual paradigm was a necessary component of social progress, a faith that I argue characterized the intellectual culture of the period.

This workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Persons who believe they may need assistance to participate fully, please contact the coordinator in advance at:


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