MJHW (Online Meeting) on Swadeshi Internationalism and Japan - Thursday, June 9th

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Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Thursday, June 9th at 19:00 JST.  Our presenter this month will be Francesco Paolo Cioffo (University of Turin), who will present his work on Swadeshi Internationalism and Japan (details below).

This month’s session will be held online through Zoom, and can be accessed using the following sign-in information:

Meeting link: https://u-tokyo-ac-jp.zoom.us/j/89475322631

The password for the meeting will be posted at the top of the MJHW website from June 6th onwards.

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Nazzicone at joelle.nazzicone@gmail.com.  We hope to see you there!


From Punjab to Kantō, and back again: Puran Singh, Swadeshi Internationalism and Japan as a site of scientific education, 1890-1920

Francesco Paolo Cioffo (University of Turin)

In this presentation I argue that between 1890 and 1920 Japan was integrated within the geographical imaginaries and the global networks of travel established by the Swadeshi movement. During this time, Japan became for many South Asians one of the main centres of scientific and industrial education, as well as one of the key hubs of global anti-colonial activism. This paper aims to go beyond historical narratives that theorise modernisation and modernity as trickle-down processes springing from the West to the rest, and instead affirm the importance of inter-Asian interactions and exchanges in the formation of ideas about an “Asian” modern.

I take as main case study Puran Singh (1881-1931), one of the towering figures of Punjabi literature, who studied industrial chemistry in Japan between 1900 and 19004. My goal is to contextualise Puran Singh in the broader flows of his time and to locate his experience among those of many other students from the Subcontinent who went to Japan for scientific and industrial education.

The presentation will be divided chronologically in three main sections. First, I look at Puran Singh’s early life and education. Here I will analyse the idea of Japan as an industrial and scientific site circulating in South Asia, and then move to look at the grassroot systems of financial support that sent Indian students to Japan. The second section will discuss Puran Singh’s time in Tokyo. I will contextualise his experience in the broader trajectory of Indian students towards Japan by looking at the institutions they studied in, which subject they picked and what they did while in Japan. Furthermore, I will show how the experience of studying in Japan was for many of these students a moment of political radicalisation. Lastly, I will discuss the return of Puran Singh in India and his activities until death. The two main issues in this section will be the fulfilment of the dream of Swadeshi and the setting up of local industries by those who returned from Japan. As well as the anti-colonial activism of Puran Singh and others using their experience abroad to bring more students and revolutionaries in Japan.

Contact Info: 

Joelle Nazzicone

ADDENDUM: For those who were unable to attend last week’s session, the recorded video has been made publicly available, and can be accessed at the workshop’s site here, or alternatively, through the following link: https://youtu.be/WvS6ioBBY0s.