This week, Sound and Society is delighted to host Alex Murphy (East Asian Languages and Civilizations), who will share his draft of his paper-in-progress, entitled:
A Tacit Voice: Radio Broadcasting and Sovereign Crisis in Modern Japan
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018
4:30 – 6:00 PM
Thank you all very much for taking the time to read this paper. In it, I explore the politics of voice and sovereignty in interwar Japan with particular attention to the role of radio broadcasting between 1925 and 1928. Embarking first from recent efforts to theorize emperor Hirohito’s well-known “surrender broadcast” in 1945, I return to this earlier moment to explore a lesser-known controversy centering precisely on the question of how to represent the emperor’s voice at the outset of broadcasting in Japan. In particular, I am interested in how this controversy brought questions concerning the articulation of state power and ideology into conversation with spiritual and phenomenological debates over voice and body at the moment of radio’s emergence as a national broadcast medium in Japan. I argue in turn that the question of whether or not to broadcast the emperor’s voice had less to do with concerns over divine status than with the vexed state of imperial sovereignty at the moment of radio’s inception, and the potential utility of the broadcast medium in resolving an attendant crisis in the constitutional order. With this perspective in mind, I propose to rethink the 1945 “surrender broadcast” in terms of continuity, rather than rupture, with foregoing relations of voice, media, and state power in Japan.
I intend to adapt elements of this paper as a basis for the introduction to my dissertation, but I am also considering the possibility of revising the paper in its present form for journal publication. To that end, I would be grateful for any feedback you might be willing to offer. In particular, I wonder if the framing of the paper seems compelling enough to attract readers interested not only in Japanese studies but also in sound studies and cultural history more broadly. Similarly, I would greatly appreciate feedback regarding the paper’s theoretical contours. Namely, does the overall reading of this historical event feel too overdetermined, or might there be points where more careful theorization might be necessary? Beyond these concerns, I welcome any and all impressions and suggestions. Thank you again, and I look forward to the workshop!