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The Nature of the Beast: Modernity and Empire at the Tokyo Imperial Zoological Gardens
LUNCH 12:00 p.m., LECTURE 12:30 p.m. Parents Dining Room

It is widely known that such Western institutions as the university, the museum, and the penitentiary shaped Japan’s emergence as a modern nation-state. Less commonly considered is the role played by the distinctly hybrid institution — at once laboratory, museum, and penitentiary — of the zoological garden, first opened in Japan in 1882. Imposing order on exotic nature and alien cultures alike, zoos expressed national commercial reach, scientific progress, political eminence, and imperial hegemony. First opened to the public in 1828 in London, the modern zoo was a product of Europe’s imperialist expansion, and the Ueno Zoo was the first zoological garden in the world not built under the sway of a Western imperial power.

Ian Miller uses the zoological garden and an array of related institutions — everything from diplomatic residences to the imperial library — to chart the cultural effects of Japan’s movement from semi-colonialism to imperialist expansionism. The zoo’s early displays, built in response to the social Darwinian logic of Western imperialism, used steel bars and Linnaean nomenclature to separate the zoo’s “civilized” patrons from its “savage” animals. This anti-colonial stance was quickly inverted, however, and Ueno was remade into a showcase for Japan’s own imperialist activities. By the 1930s, millions were streaming into the zoo to participate in the pageantry of fascist expansionism. Mounted troops led parades, uniformed kids played at dominion, and government scientists staged exhibitions on the natural wonders of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. “Nature,” it seems, was a potent ideological medium.

Professor Miller teaches modern Japanese history at Arizona State University. Prior to moving to Tempe, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Expanding East Asian Studies Program at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. He received his Ph.D. in History from the same university, an M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Illinois, and a B.A. from Earlham College.

Lunch begins at 12:00 p.m. and the talk will begin at 12:30 p.m. in Parents Dining room