Axis 3 - The factory of the Contemporary : Social and Cultural Dynamics


Coordinators : Christian GALAN et Michael LUCKEN

This axis gathers and expands upon two axes from the previous quadrennial. The involvement of over thirty researchers makes this one of the most important axes. We hope to work with researchers of SHS team, gathering around a common theme centered on the twentieth century.
For more than thirty years, Contemporary Japan has been the subject of multiple studies. However, the Western view of Contemporary Japan, the sense that Japan as a “forerunner” or “at a changing point” (whether positively or negatively), is rarely considered from a diachronic angle. When did Japan become “contemporary”?  How and why did it become “contemporary”? What are the characteristics and risks inherent in Japan’s socio-cultural model  today?  These are some of the questions which structure our research.


Project 1 – Discussions and debates of the Meiji era (DDEM):  construction of the Japanese Nation state

Project director : Emmanuel LOZERAND, Christian GALAN, Laurent NESPOULOUS

With extensive experience collectively conducting  research about  the family unit, the group of DDEM hopes to explore a new theme: acknowledgement of a national Japanese identity starting from the new imperial regime put into place during the Meiji restoration of 1868.

In the second half of the 19th Century, because of its newfound international involvement but also its dynamics original to an archipelago, Japan reinvented itself as a Nation State. As a result, not only was a new image of “Japaneseness” defined and projected by intellectuals and ideologists, but considerable political, social and cultural transformations were driven by both the State and society.

We hope to analyze the different dimensions of this process of national construction. It begins with an affirmation of self vs others, resulting in a new self-definition and expressing a desire for recognition. The new Japan in the Meiji era, and its policies of the time, were influenced by the imperialist and colonial models and counter-models proposed by other international superpowers at the time. This affirmation of self includes a dimension of separation, exclusion, and even suppression of that which was “different,” a rejection and distancing of all that was alternative, as well as an effort to integrate and to make uniform things judged as appropriate by the pre-modern organization which was based on the fragmentation and territorial closing of the country. 
It is accompanied by an extension of “self” to new territories and populations, thus making colonial and imperialist military success crucial for the construction of the nation. This assumes an effort of legitimation, in which the reconsideration of the past has the objective of defining a national identity. This project has the objective to publish a collective work consisting of synthetic perspectives and case studies. 


Project 2 – The 1960s

Project directors: Anne BAYARD-SAKAI, Michael LUCKEN

In hindsight, the 1960s seem to mark a turn in Japanese history. The organization of the Olympic Games in Tokyo (1964) was followed by the liberalization of tourism and a renewal of popular culture; the war in Vietnam changed mindsetsies and citizens’ relation to politics, causing a heightened awareness and a revival of student protests, notably those between 1968 and 1969. Our hypothesis is that Japan became one of the international models of contemporary culture during this key decade.
In spite of its importance, there have been few studies on that period. During these years, Japanese studies were mostly internal and hardly focused on the present. To this day this period has remained relatively in the shadows. Numerous PhD appliquants within CEJ are currently working on subjects related to the 60s and we expect to organize a meeting to show the significance of that period in time.

A seminar will be organized starting 2014, with bibliographic resources currently being acquired with help from IUF, Institut universitaire de France. The main aim is the publication of a collective work, and during the four-year cycle (2014-2018) we expect to organize one or two joint-activities in partnership with Waseda University (Tokyo).


Project 3 – Metamorphoses of social sciences within a society in crisis

Project directors : Pierre-François SOUYRI, Jean-Michel BUTEL

Starting in 2008, we analyzed the instruction, evolution, and vicissitudes of social sciences in modern Japan from their premises in the Edo era until the breaking-point marked by the progressive decline of Marxist theories in the 1970s. Now, our focus will be on the future: on the production of models, both social and scientific, from the preceding eras, and on the countermovements which they caused. How did a fabricated discourse indeed lead to social consensus? How was this discourse resisted? How did the rejection of the dominant model manifest itself? How did this rejection incite critical or alternative discussions?  What modifications of scientific analysis were required due to Japan’s social crises during the 1980s? In short, in Japan’s case, how does the “public space” as defined by Habermas emerge, and how is this public space a challenge for contemporary Japanese society?

Our hypothesis is that the last two decades were marked by a strong sense of crisis, both intellectual and social, a sense that is visible in the research of new paradigms and the reorganization of research institutions and protocols. Our objective will be to analyze the intellectual history of contemporary Japan, considering the social, political, and economic evolutions of the last 20 years. Therefore, the project will link intellectual and social history with a description of the metamorphoses of contemporary Japanese society. The project will be organized around a seminar, in which students will be invited to read texts by Japanese authors, journalists, politicians, writers, thinkers, and researchers, constantly keeping in mind the common theme of rebuttal and critique against the dominant narrative.

Other than the individual publication of the members of the research team, we are planning an annual academic workshop, and for the last year of the four-year cycle, we plan to organize an international convention which will nourish a collective publication.


Project 4 - Education, Childhood, and Society in Contemporary Japan

Project director: Christian Galan

Created in 2008, the research group “Education, childhood, and society in contemporary is Japan” (EESJC) focused during the last four year cycle on taking stock of the research done in these domains, and to strengthen the ties between French and European  researchers who study the questions of childhood, youth, and education. From this work emerged three major themes with the ability to gather a large number of researchers:
- the condition of “youth” in Japan; education, work, psychology, etc.,  especially around the question of the social withdrawal of French and Japanese youth (hikikomori), with research furthered by our cooperation with the Centre de Recherche Médecine, Sciences, Santé, Santé Mentale et Société (CERMES3) of the University of Paris 5.
- the history of childhood in Japan; an extension of the research completed during the last four year cycle about the situation of childhood in Japan today, and with the goal to explore how and when certain traits of childhood in Japan were put into place; this work will be carried out in collaboration with multiple European researchers, directed by Michael Kinski from the department of Japanese studies, University of Frankfurt;
- the educational reforms in Japan starting from the years 2000, which will continued to be studied from the results of the last cycle, and in collaboration between European and Japanese researchers.
The objective is to use these three themes for further publications and the organization of an international conference during the course of the four-year cycle.  The group includes five PhD applicants under the supervision of Christian Galan, who will work on the above mentioned themes.
The semester-long seminar, open to group members, foreign and outside researchers (especially Japanese), as well as PhD applicants and Masters students of INALCO and the University of Paris-Diderot, will also be continued, taking into account the researchers and doctorate/masters students who research childhood and education in China and who have added their strength from the creation of the project CEJ-EESJC.

→ the "Education & childhood" group's website


Project 5 – Japanese populations: contemporary evolutions and perspectives

Project directors :Jean-Michel BUTEL, Isabelle KONUMA, Rémi SCOCCIMARRO

Born during the preceding quadrennial (2011), laureate of the Programme Émergence du conseil scientifique de la Ville de Paris, and financed  with 142,000 euros for the period of 2011-2013, the research team includes 28 members, mostly young researchers, from 13 organizations. It is the most important research activity in France for research specializing in contemporary Japan.
Our initial research showed the imposition of a social model (that of the warrior family redefined in terms of Anglo-Saxon categories) on a complex social reality towards the end of the 19th century. On the other hand, we know that in the post-war period, especially during the period of rapid economic growth (1955-1973) the re-definition of a new type of family, a “democratic” and nuclear family, was accompanied by an unprecedented  homogenization of populations, models and discourses. Starting from the mid-1980s and continuing to today, the difficulties faced by these models put into place during the Meiji period and later during the economic boom are being explored.

A purely historical analysis is not sufficient to understand the discussed counter-models embodied by various actors during the second part of the 1980s. We hope to use a multidisciplinary approach to identify the perspectives, tendencies, projects, attempts (by various social actors), promotions (media-based, political and legal)  which are idealized but not yet applied on a larger scale. Therefore, our project has the following goals:

-to publish a presentation of the most recent demographic movements, both national (between rural and urban environments, between the city centers and their surrounding suburbs) and international  (between Japan and its ancient colonies, between Japan and the countries which provide a workforce);

-to monitor the most recent legal, political, and media-covered debates on a larger scale; local strategies of singular communities;

- to study the counter-models proposed by artistic movements dealing with contemporary issues (literature, cinema, etc...)

→ the "Populations" project's website


Project 6 – Norms of governance and internationalization

Project directors: Bernard THOMANN, Guibourg DELAMOTTE

For governments of modern nation states, the necessity of conforming to the norms of supranational dimension has always been both a source of tension and an important incentive for integration in the international community.
The process of globalization during the contemporary period has seen multiple phases but Japan’s case is a particularly interesting one. Numerous works have shown to what point Japan was considered an economic competitor, often accused of subjecting the richer Western countries to an unfair competition by its inferior work conditions, and in the post-war period, as a key member of the “free world”. However, relatively little work has been done linking national and transnational dynamics,  to show precisely how these two statuses limited Japan in the adoption of standards regarding political and social organization. This project hopes to explore the question from a historical as well as political viewpoint using two angles; one focusing on industrial health and social norms, and the other on the arrival to the world of politics a new notion of governance and an introduction to new norms of democratic operations. The general purpose of this project is to understand and underline Japan’s world vision.