Japanese history expert and Harvard professor Ian Miller will deliver a talk, “Animals and other Creatures of the Japanese Enlightenment” on Thursday, April 17 at 5:30 pm in Taylor Hall, room 203. This lecture is sponsored by the Asian Studies Program and co-sponsored by Office of the Dean of Faculty, Departments of Political Science and History and the Environmental Studies Program. This event is free and open to the public.
Miller, author of The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo (University of California Press, 2013), is primarily concerned with the cultural dimensions of environmental and scientific change. The book introduces readers to Tokyo's Ueno Imperial Zoo, opened in 1882, the first zoological garden in the world not built under the sway of a Western imperial regime. Miller’s talk at Vassar will draw closely from his book, looking at the histories of science and natural history as they relate to the Ueno Imperial Zoo.
In Japan, the pursuit of the truly decisive power to project authoritative visions of civilization and humanity took one of its most spectacular forms in the “zoological garden” (dōbutsuen), which used the new figure of the “animal” (dōbutsu) to redefine what it meant to be human in an imperial age. The history of the Ueno Zoo shows how a new kind of mass politics—bio-politics—drove Japan’s transformation into the world’s first non-Western “great power.”
Miller teaches Japanese history at Harvard University. His current research is focused on the history of energy and electricity in the making of modern Tokyo.
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