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Sven Matthiessen, PhD


Sven Matthiessen, PhD


  • (former) Research Associate



Über Sven Matthiessen

Research Project "Japanese Pan-Asianism and Japanese-Philippine Relations, 1945-1990"

In the intellectual discourse in postwar Japan, pan-Asianism was still a subject of controversy. Intellectuals like Rōyama Masamichi (1895-1980) and Takeuchi Yoshimi (1910-1977) who had propagated pan-Asianist ideas before and during the war, remained influential figures within the Japanese postwar intelligentsia. While according to J. Victor Koschmann, Rōyama’s “sophisticated, constructivist methodology was markedly similar to the one that after defeat provided the foundation for the postwar political science practiced by Maruyama [Masao] and many others,” Takeuchi engaged in the discourse on modernity and raised the question whether Japan was an Asian country or not. As Christian Uhl puts it, Takeuchi thought of wartime Asianism in Japan as being “merely the hollow shell of a once rich and promising ideal” and he considered the rebirth of pan-Asianism the logical consequence of the ongoing conflict between tradition and modernity in Japan. Indeed, the questions “What is Asia?” and “Is Japan part of Asia?” played crucial roles in postwar intellectual discourse in Japan. Shimizu Ikutarō (1907-1988) euqualled being Asian with being backward and since Japan had lost the war, he concluded in 1950 that “now, once again, the Japanese are Asians.” In the following year, Maruyama Masao (1914-1996) agreed with Takeuchi Yoshimi in his criticism on Japan as a mere imitator of European-style imperialism and concluded that Japan was in fact betraying Asia instead of acting as its role model. Along with the intensification of the Cold War, most conservative intellectuals supported the pro-American course of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and accepted Japan’s role as anti-Communist bulwark in East Asia. However, opposition came from the liberals and the left wing, especially in the course of the Vietnam War. Leftist writers like Honda Katsuichi (born 1932) criticized the Japanese government for supporting the US in the Vietnam War; a war they thought was accompanied by racial discrimination against an Asian people. Japan’s support for the US in this war also raised the question of former Japanese war crimes against fellow Asian peoples. In Japan, even militant far-left groups like the East Asian Anti-Japanese Armed Front (Higashi Ajia Hannichi Busō Sensen) formed and harshly criticized Japanese economic advance in Asia. This criticism was highly shared by Filipino nationalist intellectuals such as Renato Constantino. It is the purpose of my research project to examine the development of Japanese pan-Asianism in the course of the Cold War (1945-1989) and its impact on Japanese-Philippine relations.



October 1998: Commence studies at Hamburg University, Germany (Major: Japanese Studies)

April 2003 – October 2004: Participate in the Exchange Program at Osaka City University, Japan (Scholarship of the Monbukagakusho)

July 2006: Graduate from Hamburg University, Germany with Magister Artium (M.A.) (Major: Japanese Studies, Minors: Political Science, Foreign Language Acquisition), Title of Master Thesis: "The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, 1941 – 1945"

October 2008: PhD student in Japanese Studies at Sheffield, Great Britain
Dissertation title: "Going to the Philippines is like coming Home? Japanese Pan-Asianism and the Philippines from the Meiji Era to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" in the "PhD Joint Degree Program" between Sheffield University and Tohoku University

July 2009 - September 2009: Dissertation Fellowship by the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo, Japan

October 2009-September 2010: Research Assistant at Tohoku University, Sendai

October 2010-August 2011: Visiting Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", Heidelberg University

Since September 2011: Research Associate at the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context", Heidelberg University

February 2012: Graduation from the PhD Joint Degree Program

Areas of Research  

  • Japanese Pan-Asianism
  • Japanese Occupation Policy
  • Japanese Foreign Policy
  • Japan and Southeast Asia

Ausgewählte Publikationen

“The Perception of the Philippines in Japanese Pan-Asianism from the Meiji-Era until the Wake of the Pacific War,” GEMC Journal, 4(3): 128-158.