Co-Convenors: Juliana Buriticá Alzate, Jenny Guest, Hugh Whittaker
Speaker(s): Dr Chinami Oka (Tanaka Junior Research Fellow in Japanese Studies, Pembroke College, Oxford)
A Defeated Samurai of Japan’s Civil War and the Transnational Re-imagination of Civilisation in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States
In contrast with the vast scholarship on the American Civil War (1861–5), very limited attention has been paid to Japan’s Boshin Civil War (1868–9), let alone its losers. Defeated samurai – particularly those who refused to follow the ideology of the victorious Meiji state (1868–1912) – have been largely forgotten. One of such defeated samurai intellectual, Arai Ōsui (1846–1922), joined a mixed-race religious agricultural community in late nineteenth-century rural America. Ōsui’s encounter with the US counterculture, outside of the state’s diplomatic mission, far transcended a trivial historical episode of one man experiencing rural American life and its eccentric religion. The scope of this defeated samurai will allow us to disclose its legacy developed in early twentieth-century Japan – the birth of a new, anti-imperial, cultural-intellectual phenomenon at the height of the Meiji state’s imperialism.
Chinami Oka is the Tanaka Junior Research Fellow in Japanese Studies at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. She is a cultural and intellectual historian of modern Japan, with a particular focus on peoples and ideas that transcend the nation-state and national boundaries. She completed her DPhil in History at Oxford as a Swire scholar, following an MSc in Modern Japanese Studies at Oxford as an Oxford Kobe scholar (both at St Antony’s College). Her current book project examines an emergent current of socio-cultural and intellectual phenomena in modern transnational Japan, which revolved around a defeated samurai of Japan’s civil war and his comrades from Japan, the US, Britain, and more. Her latest publications include “Arai Ōsui and the Transnational Reimagination of Civilization in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States” (The Historical Journal, 2022).