An expert on the cultural history of Japan, Aaron Skabelund, will give a talk, “Can the Subaltern Bark? Dogs, Japan and the Making of the Modern Imperial World,” on Wednesday, February 19, at 6 pm. The event will be held in Sanders Classroom Building Spitzer Auditorium (room 212) and is free and open to the public. The lecture is part of the C. Mildred Thompson series and is sponsored by the History Department and the Asian Studies Program.
Skabelund’s presentation at Vassar will explore why researchers in the social sciences and the humanities have directed their attention almost entirely to human affairs, relegating the study of the non-human world to the natural sciences. He will also delve into whether two modern technologies—photography and taxidermy—allow some animals to “speak.” To explore these issues, the talk focuses in on two moments of human-canine relations in Japan: the latter half of the nineteenth century when Japan was the object of Western imperialism, and the 1930s when Japan become a major imperial power in its own right.
An associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, Skabelund specializes in modern Japanese history with an emphasis in the social and cultural history of imperialism, animals and the military. He is the author of Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World (Cornell University Press, 2011); the book focuses on the history and cultural significance of dogs in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan, highlighting how actual and metaphorical dogs joined with humans to create the modern imperial world and how, in turn, imperialism shaped dogs’ bodies and their relationship with humans through its impact on dog-breeding and dog-keeping practices. Currently, he is exploring the history of Japan’s post-Second World War military. He has also produced original scholarship in Japanese and German, and has translated numerous Japanese sources into English for publication in edited volumes and online. Skabelund holds a PhD in modern Japanese history from Columbia University.
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