1st Edition

Tenkō: Cultures of Political Conversion in Transwar Japan

Edited By Irena Hayter, George T. Sipos, Mark Williams Copyright 2021
    290 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    290 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book approaches the concept of tenkō (political conversion) as a response to the global crisis of interwar modernity, as opposed to a distinctly Japanese experience in postwar debates.

    Tenkō connotes the expressions of ideological conversion performed by members of the Japanese Communist Party, starting in 1933, whereby they renounced Marxism and expressed support for Japan’s imperial expansion on the continent. Although tenkō has a significant presence in Japan’s postwar intellectual and literary histories, this contributed volume is one of the first in Englishm language scholarship to approach the phenomenon. International perspectives from both established and early career scholars show tenkō as inseparable from the global politics of empire, deeply marked by an age of mechanical reproduction, mediatization and the manipulation of language. Chapters draw on a wide range of interdisciplinary methodologies, from political theory and intellectual history to literary studies. In this way, tenkō is explored through new conceptual and analytical frameworks, including questions of gender and the role of affect in politics, implications that render the phenomenon distinctly relevant to the contemporary moment.

    Tenkō: Cultures of Political Conversion in Transwar Japan will prove a valuable resource to students and scholars of Japanese and East Asian history, literature and politics.

    Part 1: Conceptual Excursions 

    1. ‘Ideological Conversion as Historical Catachresis: Coming to Terms with tenkō

    Max Ward

    2. ‘The Historical Origins of tenkō as an Intellectual and Social Issue: Marxism – Thought Control – Media’

    Brice Fauconnier

    3. ‘Tenkō in Korea: Revealing the Critical Threshold of Colonial Empire’

    Hong Jong-wook

    4. ‘Takeuchi Yoshimi and the Problem of tenkō

    Viren Murthy

    Part 2: Literary Possibilities

    5. ‘Literature and Affect: Proletarian Literature as Discovery’

    Nakagawa Shigemi

    6. ‘Common Tropes and Themes in Japan’s tenkō Literature’

    George T. Sipos

    7. "Doublethink" in Seisan bungaku Theory’

    Wada Takashi

    8. ‘The Problem of Literary "Truth": The tenkō of Nakano Shigeharu and Hayashi Fusao’

    Naitō Yoshitada

    9. ‘The Disjointed Narratives and Fractured Subjects of Takami Jun’

    Irena Hayter

    10. ‘Crossing the Void: Shimaki Kensaku’s Search for Meaning in "Leprosy" and "Blindness"’

    Jeff E. Long

    11. ‘The Tenkō of Anarchist Poets: Agrarian and Cinematic Latencies’

    Murata Hirokazu

    12. ‘A Proletarian Writer in the Showcase Window: The Shifting Representation of "the Masses" in Sata Ineko’s Kurenai

    Lee Juhee

    13. ‘Mythic Reality, Battlefield Survival and Psycho-social Conversion in Yoshida Mitsuru’s The End of Battleship Yamato

    David Stahl


    Irena Hayter is Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research brings together domains normally kept apart: literature, visual studies, consumer culture. The overarching concern is with the perceptual changes of the interwar years in Japan and their urban and technological contexts. Articles in positions: asia critique, Japanese Language and Literature and Japan Forum, amongst others, have explored the effects of these changes not only on cultural practices, but also on the politico-ideological domain. Her current monograph project is a media-historical investigation of urban spectacle, technologies of image commodification and literary modernism in interwar Japan.

    George T. Sipos is Associate Professor at the West University of Timisoara, in Romania, where he teaches Japanese literature, language and culture. His research focuses on modern and contemporary Japanese society and literature from a transcultural perspective, in particular on comparative perspectives on Japan's modernity, modern nation state, activism, and resistance against state oppression. His recent publications include 'Journeys of Political Self-Discovery: The Writings of Miyamoto Yuriko and Panait Istrati from late 1920s Soviet Russia' (Human and Social Studies, 2018), and book chapters on the works of Mishima Yukio (in Mishima Monogatari: Un samurai delle arti, 2020), Kawabata Yasunari and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke (in□ Critical Insights: Modern Japanese Literature, 2017). He is currently preparing his first single authored book on Japan's tenkō□ and tenkō □literature, due to be published in 2021 by Routledge. 

    Mark Williams is Vice President for International Academic Exchange at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. Until 2017, he was Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Leeds, UK. He received his PhD in Japanese Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. He has published widely in both English and Japanese – on themes such as Christianity and Japan, the literature of Endō Shūsaku and literary representations of the Asia Pacific War.

    "This is a welcome addition to scholarship on midcentury Japan. It brings a stellar group of historians and literary scholars together around an ambitious scholarly vision. The editors argue that the study of tenko¯—a juridical process of political conversion in the 1930s—offers a blueprint for interdisciplinary and comparative research into local expressions of the politics of affect, framed with reference to a theoretically nuanced concept of a global yet uneven capitalist modernity." - Adam Bronson, Durham University