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
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.
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:
- 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
- From Urban Tropes to Urban Theory
- Placemaking and Heritage
- Iconic Districts
- Tokyo Neighborhoods
- Gender and Sexuality
- Tokyo Imagined
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.
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.
I am currently writing a paper which I will present at this year’s Association of Asian Studies conference (virtually, alas, and not in person in Hawai’i). It is about two consultancy reports that Professor William A. Robson wrote about Tokyo in the late 1960s. I am still thinking about what exactly I will cover and what argument I’ll make, so a few scribbles below the break might help me focus.
Robson (center) with the Greater London Group in 1968
When I prepared the slides for the OAG talk I gave in June this year, I figured I might as well use the momentum to write them up for the monthly bulletin of the organization. It was a great experience penning that long a piece in my native German. And thanks to the editors, it has even become readable. So to all those readers out there who prefer reading auf Deutsch, here’s your last excuse gone not to acquaint yourself with the years of my blissful library solitude in Tokyo.
For the lack of better photography, but in need of some color on this page, this tree from Bangkok photographed during a nightly stroll
I am trying to put together a comparative paper on slums in Mumbai and Bangkok, which draws some inspiration from my work on Tokyo. It is basically about comparing the spatial distribution of slum populations across the cities. Some thoughts following the jump. Continue reading
I gave a talk to the “Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Natur- und Voelkerkunde Ostasiens” (OAG, German East Asiatic Society) yesterday. After 20 years of living abroad, this was a great opportunity to translate some of my research into my mother tongue German. I spoke for about an hour, which allowed for quite an in-depth tour of the various themes that I have also explored over the years on this blog. The presentation can be downloaded here. I also translated it into English.
The latest paper drawing on my PhD has now been published with the International Journal for Urban Sustainable Development. It covers one of the main threads of the dissertation, i.e. decreasing intra-urban inequalities during Tokyo’s rapid growth phase between 1955-1975. The two anonymous reviewers’ comments made me change the final section quite considerably, and their feedback was highly appreciated. Get in touch if you need the full paper. What follows is the abstract.
Intra-urban inequalities during rapid development: space egalitarianism in Tokyo between 1955-1975
This paper demonstrates empirically that Tokyo’s rapid post-war growth coincided with decreasing intra-urban inequalities in the special ward area, both in terms of private and public living standards. This phenomenon has not received much attention to date because Japan’s income inequalities were generally very low during this period. However, megacity growth of this kind is normally associated with growing segregation. This paper develops the narrative of ‘spatial egalitarianism’. It attributes low intra-urban inequalities to Tokyo’s homogenous urban form, equal economic structure of its neighbourhoods, and a redistributive intermediate layer of government that took a hands-off approach to urban planning. The implications are of relevance to today’s developing megacities in Asia and beyond.