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Next meeting Huizinga-Working Group Utopia: Dr Maja Vodopivec – Global History of the 1968 Protests in Japan: Katō Shūichi’s Words and Tanks – Leiden, 19 February 2020

Dr Maja Vodopivec will present on:

Global History of  the 1968 Protests in Japan: Katō Shūichi’s Words and Tanks


Katō Shūichi (1919 – 2008) was an influential intellectual and writer in post-war Japan. He was a representative of the so-called postwar enlightenment thought. By profession, a medical doctor – hematologist, he was a member of the US-Japanese joint medical team to go to Hiroshima right after the bombing.  He quit his job when selected to spend three months in Uzbekistan to help organization of the Afro-Asian Writer’s Conference in 1958. Katō lived half of his life outside of Japan (France, Austria, Germany, Canada) and he lectured at Yale, UBC, FU of Berlin, Brown University, Cambridge, Venezia, Mexico, University of California, Pomona College and numerous other Western and Japanese universities. His writings refer to a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from relationship between modernity and tradition to the role of intellectuals and literature in resistance, the issues of war responsibility, nationalism, nuclear weapons, terrorism, as well as recent war in Iraq and military interventions. Through seven decades of Katō’s work, it is possible to get a comprehensive image of the times and follow the transformation of Japan and the world. In this presentation, I will focus on his first-hand view of the Prague Spring and his book Kotoba to Sensha (“Words and Tanks”), published by Chikuma Shobō in 1969. Through discussing this essay, I would like to discuss larger questions, such as the relationship between words and violence, ideals and reality, interconnectedness of the events in Japan and the world, as well as discussing what it means to be a “progressive” intellectual.”

Date: 19 February 2020

Time 16:30 – 18:00

Leiden University College,  The Hague,  Anna van Burenplein 301 (30 seconds from the Central Station)  2595DG  Room 4.17 (Floor 4)