(Politics): Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

This session aims to examine, from the perspective of "urban governance", how the European experience influenced the development of the modern city in Japan and how the persistence of Japanese urban traditions could be reconciled with European "role models". Through these analyses, the session will contribute to understanding the historical development of the modern city in both societies.

What constitutes the “modern city” in Europe? In order to understand this in a global context, it would be meaningful to compare the development of the modern city in Europe with that in Japan, which followed, according to Eisenstadt’s theory of “multiple modernities”, a unique path of modernization among the Non-Western societies owing to its “unusual combination of similarities and differences with Western societies” (Eisenstadt).

It is widely acknowledged in recent studies of Japanese urban history that the prototype of the modern city in Japan was formed during the interwar period, when against the background of accelerating urbanization the ideas of modernity, in terms of regularity, functionality and rationality, contributed to the establishment of mass culture and ultimately the social mobilization for "total war". This applied to various fields such as urban planning, public hygiene, and consumer culture and culture of the body. These views correspond in some respects with those of European urban history which describe the interwar period as the transformation of urban space and lifestyle due to ideas of modernity in the sense mentioned above.

Such a remarkable coincidence raises the question why the modern city had developed at the same time in Japan and Europe. Starting from there, this session examines from the perspective of the transnational history of "urban governance", what influence the European experience of urbanization had on the development of the modern city in Japan and how the persistence of Japanese urban traditions could be reconciled with European "role models". "Urban governance" is defined here as a social order of urban space created by the interactions of actors in the fields of urban planning, infrastructure, housing policy, public hygiene and social policy, namely central and local governments, the army, private companies, voluntary associations, city planners and others.

As potential themes for contributions to this session, we welcome comparative studies on urban planning, provision of public services, transport infrastructure, social welfare, and urban culture in Japanese and European cities mainly during the interwar period, and on transfers of knowledge within these fields.

  • Spokesperson: Takahito Mori, Hitotsubashi University
  • Co-organizer(s): Rainer Liedtke, University of Regensburg
  • Keywords: Urban governance | Transnational history | Modernization
  • Time period: Modern period
  • Topic(s): Social | Economic
  • Study area: More than one continent