The Kyūri-bon Boom and the Public Perception of Science in Early-Meiji Japan
Location: Online, via Zoom
Science and Technology Seminar Series
SPEAKER: Ruselle Meade, Lecturer in Japanese Studies, Cardiff University
Register here: https://tinyurl.com/y9r9rffm
The first decade of Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912) saw a boom in the publication of vernacular science books, referred to as kyūri-bon, in response to the introduction of a new national school system and curriculum. The haste with which many of these books were produced, as well as their vernacular character, mean that they tend to be considered inconsequential. However, in this talk, I argue for their importance to the history of science in modern Japan. The aim here is not to look within these books for the roots of Meiji modernisation. Rather, I explore these books as cultural products on their own terms, showing how kyūri-bon writers weaved scientific content into existing literary genres in their attempts to create a science-literate public. I examine writers’ discursive strategies to ask what science (kyūri) meant to an early Meiji public. How did writers map new scientific explanations into existing popular interpretative frameworks, and how did such encounters shape public understanding of science?
Ruselle Meade is Lecturer in Japanese Studies at Cardiff University, where she works on the history of science and translation in modern Japan.
The Science and Technology in Asia Seminar Series is sponsored by the Harvard University Asia Center and convened by Victor Seow, Assistant Professor of History of Science.