Like National History and the World of Nations and Figures of the World, Christopher L. Hill’s current research is both comparative and transnational. His ongoing work is committed both to “granular” approaches to literature and thought from different parts of the world and to uncovering the mediations shaping the relationship between local phenomena and the world-scale structures of capital and the international state system. As in his earlier work, too, he uses examples from the “peripheral” country of Japan to upset theoretical assumptions derived from North Atlantic history.
Japanese Writers in the “Bandung Moment”
An unexpected discovery became the inspiration for Hill’s third book project, on the intellectual culture of 1950s Japan. After teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on the culture of postwar Japan for several years, and digging into the work of the daisan no shinjin writers after the war, Hill came across signs that the Catholic novelist Endô Shûsaku was intimately familiar with the work of the Martiniquan anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon at a time when both were all but unknown. They may have met while studying in Lyon, an encounter that has no place in the conventional histories of decolonization (for Fanon) and the Cold War in East Asia (for Endô)—but whose context reveals a shared intellectual culture informed by legacies of imperialism and evincing an urgent concern to craft philosophical foundations for human relations unmediated by empire, whether European, American, or Japanese. With the Conference of Asian and African Nations convened in Bandung in 1955 in mind, the project presents this as the “Bandung moment” in Japanese intellectual culture.
Hill’s article on the encounter between Endô and Fanon, “Crossed Geographies: Endô and Fanon in Lyon,” appeared in Representations 128 (Fall 2014). He is working on articles on Japanese writers’ participation in the Conference of Afro-Asian Writers held in Tashkent in 1958 and the novelist Ōe Kenzaburō’s argument for Japanese nonalignment and anticolonial solidarity.