New intellectual ventures

Having a little more mental space –a major paper on the Robson Reports is currently under review with an academic journal and work is still in summer mode– I have had some time to think about new potential intellectual ventures, or “future ideas”, as this category on the blog is called. Continue reading

Memory and space

For the walker in Tokyo, the unexpected is always waiting (Jinnai Hidenobu)

Craig Mod is a publisher / artist / entrepreneur and flaneur whose newsletters I follow. He is based in Tokyo and accompanies his regular dispatches with great photography in which he captures details of the Japanese capital that are sometimes hard to describe in words.

His most recent “pop up” mailing list was a weeklong walking tour through the Tokyo of his memories. I was reminded of some of the academic stuff I have been teaching my students at Temple about space and memory, but also of my own time in the city.

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Tokyo bibliography

I wrote a lengthy annotated bibliography for Oxford University Press’s Urban Studies series, for which I got commissioned last year and which kept me busy for an extended period of time. This 20-page document was much more fun to prepare than I thought.

It felt a little bit like writing an ode to the city I have come to know the best of all places I have ever lived in. This is because I spent several years researching its past as my full time occupation of course, but also because getting to know it required me to shed all preconceptions of how to perceive space.

My Japanese language skills were never good enough to approach Tokyo through primary literature, so this bibliography lists English works only. It is by no means exhaustive but the 100+ sources cover a lot of different aspects of the city’s history and current issues.

Jordan Sand offered generous help in identifying new sources and trimming the narrative. I hope it flows well enough to also offer something beyond the specific research query people might use this list for and discover something new.

The full text is behind the OUP paywall, but I hear many academic institutions have access to it. If not, please get in touch.

The thematic chapters are:

  • Introduction
  • General Historical Overviews for Edo/Tokyo
  • 1603–1867: Edo Period
  • The Scepter of Destruction
  • Economic History
  • Political and Social History
  • Contested Spaces
  • Tokyo as a World, Global, and Neoliberal City
  • History of Urban Planning
  • Tokyo Urban Form
  • Architecture
  • Metabolism
  • From Urban Tropes to Urban Theory
  • Housing
  • Placemaking and Heritage
  • Iconic Districts
  • Tokyo Neighborhoods
  • Transportation
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Tokyo Imagined

Generic neighborhood features of an egalitarian city: The postwar “Tokyo Model”

An article drawing on one of my PhD dissertation’s core chapters has just been published by Cities, an urban studies journal. In summary:

  • This paper zooms in on one of the most remarkable case studies of urban growth, i.e. that of Tokyo during the postwar period 1955-1975. Despite the city’s rapid transformation at the heart of the Japanese economic miracle, it became more egalitarian instead of stratifying spatially.
  • Charting this process for Tokyo’s 23 central wards, this paper analyzes inequalities between these administrative subunits over a 20-year period focusing on living space per capita, urban form and business densities.
  • Besides a homogenization in living standards, the 23-ward area under review here also became more equal in terms of its urban form, while neighborhoods retained their traditional character with a high density of bathhouses, small retailers and construction establishments.
  • Tokyo’s non-Western urbanism and recent experience of rapid megacity growth make it more relevant to contemporary developing cities and help historicize the discourse of rapidly growing, large cities.

 

New Zealand

Resurrecting this blog’s travelogue function, herewith some photos of our first trip from Australia, to New Zealand’s North Island. We initially wanted to hire a campervan but eventually decided against it. Instead we went around by rental car and packed the days with highlights for the little one.

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Blast from the past

My friend Rob has dug up some old cassettes, yes, tapes, from the mid-1990s when we all made electronic music using a variety of now arcane-seeming tools. My weapon of choice was “FastTracker II”, a software sequencer used primarily by amateur techno and hardcore producers at the time. It only required a PC running MS-DOS and a reasonable sound card. They were quite simple to use, but required some manual tricks and hacks to push their boundaries and sound effects. It seemed like an eternity before digital audio workstations became available to everyone. (Here is a great summary of the technology and the now-distant culture surrounding it.)

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Youthful idealism

Browsing through the deep archives of the web, I rediscovered some of my own writings from many years ago. One of the posts on my old weblog in particular caught me eye. It’s 17 years old, and about the concept of “Eurasianism”, one of Putin’s ideological foundations in his dangerously hodge-podge worldview.

I’m not going to comment on this from today’s point of view and whether or not it (still) is as relevant as some people make it out to be. But still, I couldn’t resist posting this. I wrote this entry in response to a former blogging buddy visiting a SAIS seminar featuring Aleksandr Dugin (!). I wish my analysis had turned out right, but my youthful self seems to have been engaged in some wishful thinking. Continue reading

Sri Lanka, sovereign credit events and trade finance

Two new research notes produced for my day job; and as a chronicle of such output, herewith the two abstracts:

Sri Lanka update and central debt scenario

A protracted economic crisis has dramatically worsened debt dynamics: A high initial debt burden—of which a significant portion is external debt—is combined with a challenging short-term repayment schedule. At the same time the country is running out of FX reserves as tourism receipts have dwindled and incoming official remittances decreased. Sri Lanka is on the brink of being unable to pay for its obligations and will—with a very high likelihood—require a restructuring of its external debt.

What Happens to Trade Finance in a Sovereign Default?

Trade credit underwritten or extended by export credit agencies (ECAs) offers a promising analytical angle to study the relationship between sovereign credit events and trade finance. ECA credit blurs the lines between commercial and official trade credit and is of outsize importance to developing countries. Although trade finance was thought of as peripheral to the debt restructuring process, we find it to be a central component when seen from the sovereign angle. Local banks could also be directly impacted by a sovereign default depending on their involvement in these ECA transactions.

AAS panel

Following my post from a few weeks ago on the Robson Reports, I am happy that the paper presentation at the AAS Annual Conference this weekend went well. Having brainstormed here before was a tremendous help in putting together a 5,000 rough paper draft, which will hopefully be ready for submission in a few weeks’ time.

Let’s see how the current abstract will have to change until the paper is completed:

Two reports on the TMG, written by British public administration professor William A. Robson in 1967 and 1969, are critically evaluated under the prism of the policy transfer and lesson-drawing literature. Robson’s writings are a concise analysis on the state of the Japanese capital during its high-speed growth spurt and at the onset of the Socialist Minobe administration. Their conception and policy recommendations need to be read in the context of their times and faced limits familiar to the discourse today. However, they serve as a useful historical case study for the inter-urban consultancy discourse, and more importantly, as a yardstick to evaluate Tokyo’s evolution since. They also help to extract lessons from Tokyo’s experience for other (mega-) cities today, as well as for the general urban policy transfer literature.