Research Programs: Fellowships for Advanced Social Science Research on Japan

Period of Performance

9/1/2006 - 5/31/2007

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Geopolitics and Geopieties in 20th-Century Nagano

FAIN: FO-50026-06

Karen Esther Wigen
Stanford University (Stanford, CA 94305-2004)

This project maps the shifting shape of the Nagano highlands across Japan’s twentieth century, in the national as well as the local imagination. Focusing on the core genres through which knowledge of Japanese regions has been transmitted—maps, museums, textbooks, and tourist literature—the study highlights three tensions in this archive: between the insider’s idiom of native place (kyodo) and the outsider’s trope of landscape (fukei); between the competing ways in which Nagano has been located in the nation, Asia, and the world over time; and between the anti-political quality of most regional rhetoric and the ideological work that this genre has historically performed.

Media Coverage

Review: A Malleable Map (Review)
Author(s): Peter Kornicki
Publication: Reviews in History
Date: 8/1/2011
Abstract: (eJournal book review)

Associated Products

A Malleable Map: Geographies of Restoration in Central Japan, 1600-1912 (Book)
Title: A Malleable Map: Geographies of Restoration in Central Japan, 1600-1912
Author: Karen Wigen
Abstract: Through an extended meditation on regional cartography, chorography, and statecraft, this book proposes to redefine “restoration” (ishin) in modern Japanese history. As developed here, that term designates not the quick coup d’etat of 1868, but a three-centuries-long project of rehabilitating an ancient map for modern purposes. Drawing on geographical documents from Shinano (present-day Nagano Prefecture), it contends that the reformers of the Meiji era (1868-1912) recruited classical geography to the cause of administrative reform. Under the guise of the prefecture (or ken—a term that, like ishin itself, had Chinese origins), these men effectively reinscribed an ancient set of imperial boundaries on the landscape of modern Japan. But it also goes on to show how a classicizing strategy initially promoted by power-holders at the center (starting with Tokugawa Ieyasu himself) was ultimately embraced and carried forward by leading lights in the region. The book substantiates these claims by tracing the continuing career of the classical court’s most important unit of governance, the province or kuni, in central Honshu.
Year: 2010
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: University of California Press website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description:
Publisher: University of California Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0520259188
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes