Thinking “the other” with foreigners in Tokyo

On Friday, July 16th, I had a lecture called Thinking “the other” - Inside and Outside of the Nation, as a part of CAMP discussion series at Tokyo Wonder Site.

Even though the announcement period was shorter than one week, around 30 people showed up, and the discussion following the lecture became exciting one. Half of the participants are Japanese people who speaks English, and the other half are foreigners; from Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Macedonia, Singapore, United States, Vietnam, etc.

For all of the participants, the ideas of nation and nationalism were different, and the concept of “the other” by Emmanuel Levinas was not well comprehended in historical context. Therefore, first, I talked about the historical background of the birth of the nation, mainly through Napoleonic War, and then talked about the nationalism in modernity and artistic production.

For me, it was challenging to talk about history which is related to Iran and Israel in front of Iranian and Israeli participants. However, through this challenge, I could expand the possibility of exchanging information, if we do not fully share the idea of nations in their sense.

In this lecture, on the issue of nation, I just wanted to avoid the situation that the discussion will be held in Japanese in Japan, and the whole discussion became extremely domestic and nationalistic one. By offering the place where non-Japanese speaking person can join comfortably, I think I could offer the arena of discussing nation and nationalism in Japan for broader participants.

Because of its geographical separation, Japan as a island country had no need to build a strong relationship with surrounding countries, and this situation created Japan conservative, or even nationalistic, and generated lacks of communication with “the other”. To change this situation, everybody needs to work hard to understand the others, and join the community of the world. I would like to keep working hard to make Japan more open country to outside nations.

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