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  • Into the Field: Human Scientists of Transwar Japan by Miriam Kingsberg Kadia
  • Yulia Frumer (bio)
Into the Field: Human Scientists of Transwar Japan. By Miriam Kingsberg Kadia. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2020. xiv, 344 pages. $90.00, cloth; $30.00, paper; $26.49, E-book.

It is no secret that one's judgment of others betrays an underlying self-reflection. The notion of "the Other" contains an implicit comparison with "the Self." In fact, the very existence of "the Other" is required to delineate an idealized vision of "the Self."

In Into the Field, Miriam Kingsberg Kadia explores how the studies of "others" by Japanese scholars shaped—and were shaped by—the changing Japanese understanding of national identity. Over the course of the twentieth century, Japanese human scientists analyzed selected groups of people in a way that reflected contemporaneous understanding of Japan itself. In the wartime period, they studied remote tribes in Mongolia and New Guinea, while in the postwar period they turned their gaze to the Ainu, the Nikkei in Brazil, and the pre-Columbian cultures of the Andes. The focus on the other, the methodology, and even many of their conclusions were rather similar across different periods discussed in the book. But during earlier periods these conclusions backed the idealistic vision of Japan as a leader of Asian nations whose destiny was to lift others up from their backwardness; [End Page 205] in the postwar period, on the other hand, these same conclusions supported the nascent theories of Japanese uniqueness (Nihonjinron) and were used to contrast emergent images of Japan as a peace-loving, hard-working, and quick-to-modernize nation.

The intriguing premise of the book is that Japan's human scientists of the early twentieth century were deeply entrenched in national identity politics all while claiming to maintain the highest standards of scientific objectivity. In fact, as Kadia shows, putting scientific objectivity on a pedestal was precisely what enabled Japanese researchers to legitimize Japan's imperial expansion. As we read in Into the Field, wrapping one's assumptions about the "innate" nature of different peoples in the veil of an "impartial view from nowhere" endowed early twentieth-century scientists with weighty authority. Critiquing the notion of objectivity, Kadia relies on the seminal study Objectivity (MIT Press, 2007) by historians of science Lorraine Daston and Peter Gallison. Daston and Gallison explore the history of the notion itself—how the idea of objectivity was constructed over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Into the Field builds on Objectivity in showing how particular notions of scientific objectivity were constructed in early twentieth-century Japanese human sciences. Into the Field also explains why a rhetoric of objectivity was prevalent in wartime Japan across various scholarly disciplines. (See, for example, William Tsutsui's Manufacturing Ideology [Princeton University Press, 1998].) According to Kadia, Japanese scholars, isolated from the global scientific community due to imperialist policies, had no choice but to forge ties with scholars of other disciplines within Japan, spreading and sharing concepts and methodologies.

Yet the main focus of the book is the role the notion of objectivity played in the formation of the discipline of anthropology in Japan—first as a foundational principle, and later, in the 1960s and the 1970s, as a dangerous illusion to expose and eliminate. This focus allows Kadia to make a unique contribution to the history of Japanese social sciences. There is already a substantial body of scholarship that analyzes receptions of evolutionary theory.1 Another subset of scholarship explores the history of Japanese folklore studies.2 Into the Field, on the other hand, explores the development of [End Page 206] scholarly fields that study selected groups of people—collectively known as "human sciences"—into distinct academic disciplines such as anthropology and archaeology.

In charting the formation of human sciences (jinrui kagaku) in Japan, Into the Field follows the life of a pivotal figure in the nascent discipline—Izumi Seiichi (1915–70). Izumi is a fascinating figure who grew up in Japanoccupied Korea and for whom, as Kadia notes, Japan was more of an "other" than Korea. The chapters of the book follow Izumi's research projects, from his first research...