Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Come again

My arrival in Shanghai is less than five weeks away (I arrive 2 September) and I'm starting to sense ways in which this adventure is going to be like past adventures, including some which go way back. Unexpected ways, of course, since I wasn't seeking to repeat things! Some of these repetitions come from my own limitations, others are alas out of my control. Here's an example of each.

Mark repeats himself:
My project is in some ways very like the project of the year I spent at Tokyo University in 1992-3. My official project then was "Japanese Weberians," but the related unofficial one had to do with how religion and especially ethics (倫理学) was understood and taught in Japanese universities. While I didn't have these details in mind when I formed the idea to go to China, the fruitfulness of the Japan stay certainly was a main motivator. I hope that 2014-15 China, too, establishes long-standing friendships and academic relationships.

Life repeats itself:
This goes back even farther - to 1984, when I started my undergraduate studies at Oxford. What seems likely to repeat itself is a November US election in which Republicans win big. Painful as that will be, it will be that much more unpleasant experiencing it in a foreign land ambivalent about the US and its claims to significance. Clarifying my relationship to the US, its people and its political system will be unavoidable.

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