WiSe 17/18: The Last Years of the Cold War: a Global History of late 1980s Culture and Politics in East Asia
Urs Matthias Zachmann
Additional information / Pre-requisites
This seminar requires preparatory reading of course material and active participation in the discussions and presentations. The course will be assessed on the basis of an end-of-semester essay.
This seminar is addressed to MA students in East Asian Studies (Japan, China, Korea) and students of the MA program Global History. BA students in their last year are also welcome, but are requested ... read more
This seminar is addressed to MA students in East Asian Studies (Japan, China, Korea) and students of the MA program Global History. BA students in their last year are also welcome, but are requested to consult with the instructor first before enrolling in this course.
The year 1989 marks a watershed in history in many respects and for many countries in East Asia: In Japan, the passing away of the emperor marked the end of the long Showa reign and gave rise to a lot of soul-searching about the current state of Japan, whether it was still in a postwar situation or should strive to become a ‘normal nation’; in the same year, Japan’s asset price ‘bubble’, that had fuelled years of unbridled speculation, suddenly burst and ushered in the so-called ‘lost decades’ that put a firm end to Japan’s high-growth era. Conversely, China by then had witnessed more than a decade of reform and restructuring under the banner of ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’; this gave rise to a hope among the younger generation that this would translate into more political freedom, only to be bitterly disappointed by the events surrounding Tiananmen. The year 1989, however, also marked the beginning of China’s meteoric ascent to economic dominance in East Asia. South Korea, finally, witnessed the transition from autocracy to democracy in only a few years and the push towards rapid economic growth. At the same time, while most institutions of the Cold War crumbled, the split with North Korea remained intact; similarly the historical rifts among Japan, China and Korea not only endured, but became even deeper on the political and popular level due to the direct real confrontation with each other into which these countries and their public spheres entered for the first time after the war.
This seminar seeks to focus the above events through the lens of global intellectual history. Despite their kaleidoscopic variety, can we discern unifying patterns among them, such as common or cognate responses to global forces that were particular to breakdown of the Cold War order in the late 1980s? What do these responses in their local manifestation say about the current state of politics and culture in contemporary East Asia? What did substantially change and made way for new patterns in this fateful half-decade, and what are the legacies of the Cold War persisting today in East Asia.