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Presented By: Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

EIHS Lecture: Promissory Talk and the Limits of Historical Imagination

Jolyon Baraka Thomas (University of Pennsylvania)

Jolyon Baraka Thomas Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Jolyon Baraka Thomas
This lecture uses the concept of promissory talk to critically analyze one way of thinking “against history.” Promissory talk is a future-oriented version of counterfactual speculation. Rather than asking “what if…?” questions of historical events when the outcomes are already known, promissory speech says “if only… then…” as a way of linking present policy actions to anticipated future results. Drawing on examples from Japan and the United States, Professor Thomas will show how recent efforts to reframe children’s historical consciousness reflect a dubious promissory premise: “If only the kids had more national pride, then all of our problems would be solved."

Jolyon Baraka Thomas is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2012). Thomas’s current research projects include the monograph Difficult Subjects: Religion and the Politics of Public Education under the US-Japan Security Alliance, a co-authored book called Animating Action, and the co-edited New Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions.

This event presented by the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.
Jolyon Baraka Thomas Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Jolyon Baraka Thomas

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