Japan-related research

JPOSS #35: “Japan: The Harbinger State”

The thirty-fifth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on February 2, 2023. Christina L. Davis (Harvard University) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Phillip Y. Lipscy (University of Toronto) presented a paper published in a special issue of the Japanese Journal of Political Science (JJPS) honoring and celebrating the works of Susan Pharr upon her retirement. Lipscy notes that the paper is inspired by Pharr’s contributions to the field of political science through her study of Japan. In this paper, he reviews the trends of research on Japan in the field and argues for the value of studying Japan as a “harbinger state,” a country that is relatively early amongst others in encountering a general issue or challenge. While the concept is not unique to the case of Japan, Lipscy points out a number of areas where Japan’s experience presents crucial opportunities for preliminary evidence and insights on issues that may be incipient in other states, such as aging population, staggering public debt, and responding to the rise of China.

During the Q&A session, participants reflected on the role of single country studies in the field as well as the challenge of undertaking book-length expositions of ideas and theories with a central focus on Japan. Participants also mentioned difficulties in framing Japan as a case in conversation with different areas of scholarship. Moving forward as a community of scholars, participants raised suggestions for collaborations and conferences.

This event attracted around 30 participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: