Lecture Idea — Rice

I am reading for my oral exams right now, and for my Modern Japan field, I was advised to think about lecture outlines, themes, questions etc, rather than remembering who said what. This is actually a lot of fun. I started synthesizing many themes into an academic year-long narrative. In my dream course, I’d like to finish with a couple of thematic lectures that could serve as a multi-angled overview of the course. One idea I just thought of is the symbol of rice as staple food:

1. The whole (quite pointless) debate about whether Jomon people had rice cultivation, or it was Yayoi people’s. The historiographical discussion of why this is an important topic for nationalists. Maybe refer to the discussion of rice cultivation in China.

Here I have to find something to discuss ancient – early history – premodern periods. Any idea?

2. Rice as currency in the Tokugawa period. Refer to the chapter on it in Thomas Looser’s Visioning Eternity.

3. Discussion of Vitamin B deficiency during the Russo-Japanese war. Connect it to the scientific life discourse and encouragement of brown rice in the 20s and 30s.

4. Rice riots in 1918, and the following rice production policy in the colonies. People ate “foreign” rice for the first time and despised it. Discuss colonial economy + national consciousness + the symbol of rice. Lewis, Rioters and Citizens. Michael Schneider’s chapter in Colonial Modernity in Korea.

5. The discourse of “a peck of gin-shari” in wartime Japan.

5. Maybe flour diplomacy during the American occupation. The LDP’s rural politics and its 200% subsidies.

6. The “kome-banare” crisis (!)

Category(s): Academic, History, Japan

2 Responses to Lecture Idea — Rice

  1. This sounds like a fun lecture idea – I hope you get the chance to use it! I’ve been contemplating what a “comparative pornography” lecture would look like, drawing on the edited collection by Lynn Hunt on early modernity and pornography in Europe, Timon Screech for shunga, and Eric Cazdyn, Linda Williams, Nina Power for the contemporary situation in film.

  2. Wow, Chelsea, students would totally love that lecture more than mine on rice.

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