Organized Panel Session
Responding to recent feminist, black, and indigenous critiques of Anthropocene discourses as well as to reconceptualizations of trans/national environmental histories and movements as attentive both to local specificities and to more-than-human worlds, this panel highlights an understudied aspect in Japanese environmental history and criticism: the ethics, agency, and histories of nonhuman non/life. Tracing the traversals of nonhuman populations and processes – from bacteria and monkeys to post-Fukushima ecologies and speculative post-extinction imaginaries—across disciplines, sciences, and artistic projects, the panel seeks to answer questions such as the following: What is the relation between nonhuman histories and national history? What forms, modes and expressions of nonhuman agency and storying (Ohrem 2017) have been represented (or not)? Building on the research of anthropologist and primatologist Imanishi Kenji and on records of imperial military science, Thomas Lamarre highlights the role of imperial microbiology in building Japan’s scientific colonial imaginary while also showing that inattention to microbial life in contemporary environmentalisms can be traced in part to this colonial legacy. Proposing a broad understanding of the notion of speculative fiction, Christine Marran asks whether and in what ways the Japanese modern novel has been complicit in the production of global climate change. Examining the post-Fukushima eco-documentaries of Iwasaki Masanori, Margherita Long’s paper argues that they impart a pedagogy of care and non-moralizing attention to nonhuman life. Finally, Livia Monnet argues that Seto Momoko’s experimental short films envision a post-extinction, radical ecology of nonhuman alterlife while also articulating a subtle immanent critique of Anthropocene science.