Publishing about Asia in Academic Journals and Book Series (Roundtable)


) Christophe Thouny, The University of Tokyo



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1) Christophe Thouny, The University of Tokyo
Cartographies of Modernity in Nagai Kafū’s Hiyorigeta and Sumida-gawa

This presentation attempts to answer to the recent appropriation of literary cartographic practices in Digital Humanities, and argue for a strategic use of narrative in order to avoid the capture of urban cartographies into closed functional spaces. Recent cartographic projects such as Todd Presner’s Hypercities claim to solve the modern aporia of the synchronicity of non-synchronicity by making visible the historical layers of urban places and in this process recall the lost voices of the urban everyday. Yet what is the synchronicity of the digital, and of the map? The juxtaposition of cartographic layers to explore the historicality of urban places is nothing new in itself, as shows the ongoing vogue of publications proposing a tour of Tokyo through maps of Heisei, Meiji and Edo. Returning to the Meiji era, I discuss in particular how Nagai Kafū’s collection of urban essays Hiyorigeta already played on the layering of urban temporalities through the use of maps of Edo and Meiji Tokyo yet with a radically different sense of mediation and urban experience. Kafū’s cartographic practice of Meiji Tokyo was grounded in the historical mediation of land and land-use from early-modern to modern Japan. And this historical relation between the map and the territory allowed Kafū’s cartographic practice of Tokyo to generate in a spatial narrative of growing-up a modern urban subject. In conclusion, I discuss Kafū’s use of pre-modern meisho in Sumida-gawa to argue that it is the perspectival movement and tension between historical mappings and a historical land, rather than their integration into a uniform code, that generates urban narratives in resistance to the logic of national and economic circulation.





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