Countries seem to be forever. We tend to forget that in fact they are processes rather than things. They are abstractions that exist as imagined communities, and as such they change greatly over time. This course focuses on how one country, Japan, emerged from a string of islands that could have well become several countries in the same way Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Ireland exist in the British Isles. The central questions in this course are, How did Japan happen? How has Japan changed over time?
Starting with prehistoric times, we consider how the early cultures and peoples on the Japanese archipelago coalesce to become "Japan" for the first time in the late seventh century and how those cultures and peoples adopted new identities, systems of power relations, and economies up to the present. While this course examines the big picture, to understand it, the factual pixels that constitute it require close examination. As a consequence, evaluations include a map quiz and in-class tests that require a mastery of both factual detail and analytical skill. Evidence considered will be both textual and visual.
This course's main goal is to present the fundamentals of Japanese history and culture, developing a familiarity with the ecology, geography, cultural traditions, and historical development of the Japanese archipelago. Through the text, a special emphasis is given to ecological change.