In the 1930s, a cohort of professional human scientists coalesced around a common and particular understanding of objectivity as the foundation of legitimate knowledge, and of fieldwork as the pathway to objectivity. Shared experiences reinforced their identity as a generation, building a collective cognitive framework, identity, and interpersonal network. Into the Field is the first collective biography of this cohort, evocatively described by one contemporary as the men of one age.
At the height of imperialism, these scholars ventured to colonial territories in pursuit of information about local peoples that would justify their subjugation. After the defeat and dismantling of Japanese sovereignty in Asia and Oceania, they returned to the home islands. Under the occupation and tutelage of the United States, they revised and recreated narratives of human difference to serve the new national values of democracy, capitalism, and peace. By the 1960s they themselves came to understand the limitations of these values, and the 1968 student movement saw an all-encompassing attack on objectivity itself. Nonetheless, their legacy lives on in the disciplines they developed and the beliefs they incorporated into Japanese and global understandings of human diversity.
About the author
Miriam Kingsberg Kadia is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the author of Moral Nation, which won the Eugene M. Kayden Book Award in 2015.