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Jour Fixe with Shigehisa Kuriyama (Harvard)

Jan 27, 2015

At the jour fixe, Prof. Shigehisa Kuriyama (Harvard) talked about "The Travel of Anxieties. Rethinking the Impact of Western Medicine on Japanese Conceptions of the Body". The event was held on January 22 at the Karl Jaspers Centre.

Historians of early modern Japan have long cited the appearance of the Kaitai shinsho (1774), a translation of a European anatomical text, as a critical turning point in Japanese studies of Western languages and science. But the importance of this text in the broad history of cultural transfer has, according to Prof. Kuriyama, long distorted interpretations of Japanese medical history. It has greatly exaggerated, on the one hand, the impact of Western anatomy, and has completely hidden, on the other, a far deeper transformation. For Japanese medicine before the end of the nineteenth century, the most significant change inspired by the encounter with Europe lay not, in fact, in altered notions of bodily structure, but rather in new fears of vulnerability. He proposes, then, to sketch a radically different account of how conceptions of the body in Japan were affected by the West. But through this specific case study he hopes, too, to suggest how studies of global science may need to look beyond just the circulation of ideas and practices, and consider as well the travel of anxieties.

Shigehisa Kuriyama is Professor of Cultural History at Reischauer Institute, Harvard University. His research explores broad philosophical issues (being and time, representations and reality, knowing and feeling) through the lens of specific topics in comparative medical history (Japan, China, and Europe).

The jour fixe was moderated by Prof. Joachim Kurtz, HCTS Professor of Intellectual History.

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.


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