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Shimizu, Kosuke. Materializing the ‘non-Western’: two stories of Japanese philosophers on culture and politics in the inter-war period
2015, Cambridge review of international affairs, 28(1), pp. 3–20.
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, Contributed by: Noemi Suter
Abstract: This paper investigates the risk presumably involved in the narratives of non- Western international relations theory (IRT) by focusing on a similar historical case in Japan. It reveals the risk of uncritically accepted geographical division, and particularly focuses on the discourses of the Kyoto School’s theory of world history as an example of non-Western narratives in the past, which was to ‘overcome’ the Western civilization similar to the contemporary non-Western IRT. However, they are also infamous for providing justification for the wartime regime in Japan for their aggression in the Asian continent. What is the connection between their philosophy and support for the imperialist regime? If there is a connection between them, is there any possibility of the resurrection of the same results in the case of non-Western IRT? To answer these questions, the article introduces the philosophy of Tosaka Jun who was critical of the School but, unlike Kyoto School philosophers, stubbornly fought against the mainstream politics of the time.

Comment: By concentrating on a similar historical situation in Japan, Kosuke Shimizu’s article “Materializing the ‘non-Western’: two stories of Japanese philosophers on culture and politics in the inter-war period” examines the risk that is supposedly inherent in the narratives of non-Western international relations theory (IRT) and sheds a different light on IRT. He demonstrates the dangers of uncritically accepting geographical division and explains that “non-Western IRT discussion faces the risk of being co-opted into the Western positivist mainstream IR that it seeks to challenge”.

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