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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Zoom [Registration link available below]
Event date: 
Monday, 31 January, 2022 - 17:30


“The Columbus of Japan” and other myths in Japan’s “discovery” of Southeast Asia

The early decades of the seventeenth century are perceived as a period of outward-looking foreign exchange in Japanese history. This narrative is supported by strong tropes, such as mercantile spirit and maritime adventurism, and a persuasive archive of foreign relations (gaikō, taigai kankei). From the late nineteenth century onwards, explicit labelling and processes of implicit comparison synchronized Tokugawa maritime history with developments related to the European age of expansion. In this process, individuals such as Yamada Nagamasa (1690-1630) and Hamada Yahyōe became the celebrated ‘pioneers’ of early modern Japan’s southern expansion (nanshin) as their biographies reshaped the past in a concerted effort of academic history and public memory policies. The talk aims to further awareness of how on the one hand translation and methodological (trans-)nationalism shaped regimes of historicity and how on the other, commensurable pasts continue to mislead the judgement of global historians.

Birgit Tremml-Werner is a researcher at the Centre for Concurrences at Linnaeus University, Sweden, where she teaches in the Master programme in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and works on a project entitled “Encountering Diplomacy in Early Modern Southeast Asia”. She received her PhD in History from the University of Vienna in 2012. Her dissertation was published in 2015 as Spain, China, and Japan in Manila, 1571-1644: Local Comparisons and Global Connections (Amsterdam University Press). From 2013 until 2015, she was a JSPS postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo and from 2016 until 2019 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Chair for Global History at the University of Zurich as part of a HERA project studying knowledge circulation between East Asia and Europe. Her second book with the preliminary title Translating Negotiations or Negotiating Imperialism? Is currently under review.