David Graeber and David Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Mankind is a tour de force and intellectual feast. I finally finished it over the holidays. There are many write-ups on the book out there so the below, but I add my short one mainly for my record. Continue reading
By the dictates of closing browser tabs, I just wanted to jot down a very small number of reading notes on this gem of a PDF I found when researching post-independence South Asian New Town designs. Continue reading
I have decided to distil one more article out of my dissertation and then call it quits. I want to focus on the measurement of urban living standards and the “civil minimum” as well as other innovations carried out by TMG in the late 1960s and early 1970s chiefly under the Minobe administration. Continue reading
Writing a blog post is often related to that feeling of having too many browser tabs open. Before I close them, I wanted to jot down some unstructured thoughts on my recent reading around effective altruism (EA). Continue reading
With my piece on the 1967 Robson Report forthcoming, I am nearing the final stretches of publishing the research of my dissertation in peer-reviewed journals. Finishing my PhD in three years from 2015-18, I wasn’t able to do it while engaged in my doctoral research. This was fortuitous in hindsight (I am biased of course) as it kept me from being distracted by the vagaries of scientific publishing. It would have made both processes–the publishing and the research–longer and altered the final product significantly. Continue reading
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.