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Jour Fixe by Prof. David L. Howell

12. Mai. 2017

The Cluster held its first Jour Fixe in the summer term 2017 on May 18 at 4 pm at the Karl Jaspers Centre. Prof. David L. Howell from Harvard University gave a talk on “How Green Was My Night Soil: Thinking with Excrement about Nineteenth-Century Japan”.

The lecture focused on excrement, which was a hot commodity in the cities of nineteenth-century Japan. The widespread use of night soil as an organic fertilizer meant that residents of cities such as Tokyo and Osaka could sell their waste rather than simply dispose of it. Thanks to this trade, pre–twentieth-century cities Japanese cities enjoy a reputation as having been remarkably green spaces in which residents lived in salubrious harmony with nature.

In this presentation, Prof. David Howell argued that the night-soil economy offers a novel way to situate late Tokugawa and early Meiji Japan into the broader history of the nineteenth-century world, while at the same time challenging the tendency to essentialize the “greenness” of early modern Japanese cities.

Before Prof. Howells presentation, Prof. Harald Fuess, Chair of Cultural Economic History at the Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies, gave an introduction.

David L. Howell is Professor of Japanese History at Harvard University and Editor of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. He received his B.A. from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. He taught at the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton before joining the Harvard faculty in 2010. Howell's research focuses on the social history of Japan in the Tokugawa (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods. His current projects include a short survey of the Meiji Restoration period and a history of human waste and garbage in the cities of Tokugawa and Meiji Japan. He is also a co-editor of a new edition of the Cambridge History of Japan.

The Jour Fixe is a regular event of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" held two times during each semester. It is organised by the four research areas of the Cluster and their speakers Prof. Diamantis Panagiotopoulos (Area A), Prof. Christiane Brosius (Area B), Prof. Joachim Kurtz (Area C), and Prof. Monica Juneja (Area D).

Visit the Jour Fixe website for more information.


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