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Till Knaudt's Homepage



Welcome to my homepage. I am a scholar of modern Japanese history based at the Institute for the Research in Humanities 人文科学研究所 at Kyōto University, Japan. I research and teach the social and intellectual history of twentieth-century Japan, focusing on social movements, technology, and environmentalism.

In more practical terms, I have researched talked and written on how, and why, New Left militant groups during the Japanese '1968,' like the Red Army Faction (Sekigun) or the East Asian Anti-Japanese Armed Front, highjacked airlines or bombed company buildings. Far from 'senseless' violence, their actions where based on strong political beliefs, globally entangled in de-colonization. Ultimately, their theory and practice led them to the abandonment of class politics.


November 13, 2023

Ran Zwigenberg is giving a book talk at Kyoto University’s Institute for the Research in Humanities on December 15, 2023. 15:00-17:00 (Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, Seminar Room 1 (1F), Jinbunkagaku Kenkyūjo-honkan).

The topic is his newly published book “Nuclear Minds: Cold War Psychological Science and the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” that came out at Chicago University Press in 2023.

In 1945, researchers on a mission to Hiroshima with the United States Strategic Bombing Survey canvassed survivors of the nuclear attack. This marked the beginning of global efforts—by psychiatrists, psychologists, and other social scientists—to tackle the complex ways human minds were affected by the advent of the nuclear age. Nuclear Minds traces these efforts and the ways they were interpreted differently across communities of researchers and victims. The book sets out, first, to understand the historical, cultural, and scientific constraints in which researchers and victims were acting and, second, to explore the way suffering was understood in different cultural contexts before PTSD was a category of analysis.

Ran Zwigenberg is an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on modern Japanese and European history, with a specialization in memory and intellectual history.

October 2, 2023

The struggle between the students of Yoshida Dormitory and the Kyoto University administration has been going on for years, and a decision by the Kyoto District Court on the university's lawsuit against the residents is expected in early October. Lola Simon of Brown University (US) has written a great article about the situation there, after her stay in Kyoto to research the memory politics of Yoshida Dormitory.

August 4, 2023


I had a fantastic time on Wednesday listening to Edward Jones-Imhotep's talk here at Kyodai on the social history of technology in the United States. Presenting on the scientific management ideology of Henry Gantt and Frederick Taylor in their efforts to overcome human-machine "failure," Jones-Imhotep showed how Gantt and Taylor both sought to bust unions in the factories where they were employed as consultants. Taylor strategically hired black workers to break up labor gangs organized around machines and along ethnic lines to break their ability to bargain collectively. His student, Henry Gantt, on the other hand, came from a former slaveholding family and was convinced of the racist notion that black workers did not belong in the industrial North. Therefore, Jones-Imhotep argues, he applied his scientific management theories, like the "Gantt-Chart," with the goal of increasing productivity among non-black workers, breaking social cohesion by individualizing the measurement of productivity, without hiring black workers like Taylor. Very fascinating story that the fact that socio-ethnic discrimination, union busting, and efforts to increase productivity always go hand in hand.

July 21, 2023

Update with my latest publications and talks. I intend to upload some of the drafts of papers I have written, and eventually link to my published work (since I do not command legions of lawyers or live in the Bahamas to protect me from copyright claims, I will not make published material available for download). Anyway, you can now find more information about my research projects that I am currently working on.

July 19, 2023

I recently started to reconstruct my homepage. For now there is not too much content on this site and the list of publications is incomplete. You can refere to my work at Researchmap, although the entries are in dire need of an update as well.

You can contact me under this email-address.

Research Projects

A Social History of Microcomputing in Japan, 1977 to 1995

Between the 1970s and the mid-1990s, millions of Japanese microcomputers, also known as personal computers (pasokon), home computers (maikon), or word processors (wāpuro), were sold to Japanese consumers. For two decades, Japanese computer technology from dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of software houses transformed society by making consumer-users and shaping current and future uses of technology. This history of Japanese computer technology, remembered with nostalgia for "the nation's personal computer" (kokumin no pasokon), peaked in the mid-1990s. After 1995, the globalizing force of the Internet and U.S.-made corporate computer standards prevailed in the form of the Web browser and Microsoft Corporation's Windows 95 operating system.

Early proponents of computer technology, some from the Japanese radical New Left, constructed an ideology about the artistic nature of the computer in making art or "things" (monozukuri) that was instrumental in propagating the use of the computer and that differed significantly from the "California ideology" that has framed the ideology of Silicon Valley since the late 1970s. Japanese computer users sought to gain agency over the computer machine by making it, reconstructing it, using it, and resisting it. Their interest in doing so was based on pure enthusiasm, but also on notions of class, gender, and national ideology. In the process, they invested their available social time in the computer machine, which ultimately accelerated the process that made the computer a universal tool of labor, but failed both in technological and national idealism and in the drive to overcome class and gender differences. Thus, in the second half of the 1980s, the Japanese microcomputer was "normalized" by bringing it to the consumer. Japanese families bought microcomputers for professional, educational, business, or recreational purposes. While some of the uses were quite different from those in other industrialized nations, the normalized use of the computer machine distanced the user from mastering the technology. Computer technology became a universal tool that, in Japan's liberal capitalism, served not only to automate and rationalize, but also to universalize labor time. The universalization of labor means that waged labor time and unwaged disposable social time ("leisure time") intermingle until the latter can become fragmented and insignificant. Through these universalizing efforts, which were not tied to the physical location of the factory but could integrate labor into production down to the family unit, capitalist agencies could extract more time from workers' social time without (in the short term) lowering wages for highly specialized knowledge labor.

The Global New Left, Japanese Hippies, and Environmentalism from the 1960s to 1980s.

In the 1970s, the political theory of the Japanese New Left and the countercultural and religious practices of the Japanese hippie movement became a nexus that led to a successful local environmental protest on Amami Ōjima. The East Asian Fuels Company (Tōa Nenryō KK, or Tōnen for short), founded in 1939 as a state-controlled company to provide aircraft fuel, had attempted to build an oil refinery on the island, a plan that was shelved in the early 1980s due to opposition from the local fishermen's association and a group of hippie activists who had vowed to defend the sanctity of the local environment with their lives.

In the mid-1970s, religion, counterculture, and Third World anti-imperialism intersected in a small hippie commune on the island of Amami Ōjima and its involvement in local environmental protest. This group, led by the hippie "Pon," or Yamada Kaiya, had evolved from the "Buzoku," or "tribes," the mainspring of the small but even more influential Japanese hippie movement. Although the hippies numbered only a few hundred "members" in their heyday, between 1965 and 1989 they forged transnational connections with key actors in the California counterculture, US environmentalism, the Japanese peace movement, local Communist Party mayors, and networks of support for imprisoned members of the left-terrorist Anti-Japanese Front. These environmental activists, members of small hippie communes on the fringes of the Japanese New Left, were entangled in a global personal network that linked countercultures such as California Beat and Westcoast Zen in the United States with environmentalist protest, postwar religiosity, and New Left theory and practice in Japan. However, the impact of the Japanese New Left on Japanese environmental politics from below after the student protests and street battles of "1968" has been surprisingly understudied. My research aims to fill this gap by focusing on how essentialist notions of a "nature" to be protected actually influenced environmental movements in the 1970s, and how the New Left contributed to theory and practice.

Fundamental Research on Archiving Source Material Related to the New Left (Kaken Category C)

This Kaken-funded research project aims to collect, process, digitize, and make available source materials from social movements, civic groups, and political factions associated with the New Left. As these materials are becoming increasingly scarce and, unfortunately, often lost, the project aims to preserve them and make them accessible to researchers and the public. The project was launched in 2023, and the latest activities are the creation of an index of the available material.



Von Revolution zu Befreiung: Studentenbewegung, Antiimperialismus und Terrorismus in Japan (1968-1975). Frankfurt a. M.: Campus. [PRESS]

Journal Articles

"Maikon and Cyber-Capitalism: Some Preliminary Remarks on a History of Computerization in Japan, 1960–1990." Zinbun, No. 51, pp. 95-122. [PDF]
"A Farewell to Class: the Japanese New Left, the Colonial Landscape of Kamagasaki and the Anti-Japanese Front (1970-1975)." Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 46 No 2, pp. 395-422.
『日本の〈ポスト一九六八年〉における反帝国主義と反日論』 「ゲシヒデ」8巻8号、73~81頁。

Articles in Edited Volumes

『1920/1930年代 反体制派のなかの反対派ー「転向」と「山川イズム」、左派社会主義労働組合運動』 新谷卓、 中島浩貴、 鈴木健雄編著 「歴史のなかのラディカリズム」、彩流社、121~131頁。
"Der Aufsatz Ima, kō kangaeru. Owaru koto no nai tatakai toshite teiki sareta Tōdai tōsō no honshitsu o, issai no kyozō o hai-shite toi-naosu [Jetzt denken wir so. Die Frage nach dem Wesen des Tōdai-Kampfes, der als ein endloser Kampf hinterfragt wurde, neu stellen, indem alle falschen Darstellungen verworfen werden] des Studentenaktivisten Yamamoto Yoshitaka (1969)." Anke Scherer und Katja Schmidtpott, Wege zur japanischen Geschichte. Quellen aus dem 10. bis 21. Jahrhundert in deutscher Übersetzung. Festschrift für Regine Mathias anlässlich ihres 65. Geburtstags. Hamburg: Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, 2020 (= Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens e.V. Hamburg; Bd. 148), pp. 315-333.
with Hans Martin Krämer: “Politische Agitation und Sozialreform im Alltag: Das 'Settlement' der Universität Tōkyō in Shitamachi.” Stephan Köhn, Chantal Weber, Volker Elis, Tōkyō in den zwanziger Jahren. Experimentierfeld einer anderen Moderne? Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, pp. 241-259.
"Revolution in der Badewanne oder Eifersuchtsmord? Studentenbewegung, Geschlecht und die Filme ‘Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex’ und ‘Vereinigte Rote Armee’ im Vergleich." Irene Bandhauer-Schöffmann, Dirk van Laak, Der Linksterrorismus der 1970er-Jahre und die Ordnung der Geschlechter (Giessen Contributions to the Study of Culture, Bd. 9), Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, pp. 249-261.
with Hans Martin Krämer: "Die Naturwissenschaften in der Entscheidungsschlacht-' Die Mobilisierung von Wissenschaft und Wissenschaftlern in Japan im Zweiten Weltkrieg." Matthias Berg, Jens Thiel, Peter Walter, Mit Feder und Schwert: Gelehrte und Krieg im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 229-246.


"Review of Mobilizing Japanese Youth: The Cold War and the Making of the Sixties Generation by Christopher Gerteis." Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 200-204.
"The Red Years: Theory, Politics and Aesthetics in the Japanese ‘68, edited by Gavin Walker. London: Verso, 2020, 272 pp., £56.00 cloth. (ISBN 9781788731638)." Social Science Japan Journal Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 369-372.
"Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo, by Nick Kapur. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018, 325pp., $39.95 (ISBN: 9780674984424)." Social Science Japan Journal, Volume 23, Issue 2, Summer 2020, Pages 317–320.

"Till Knaudt: Rezension zu: Ward, Max: Thought Crime. Ideology and State Power in Interwar Japan. Durham 2019. ISBN 978-1-4780-0165-2." H-Soz-Kult www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-27569.
"Müller, Simone (2016). Zerrissenes Bewusstsein. Der Intellektuellendiskurs im modernen Japan. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton." Asiatische Studien / Etudes Asiatiques 72(4), pp. 1223-1230.
Review: "Christopher Perkins, The United Red Army on Screen: Cinema, Aesthetics and the Politics of Memory, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 147 pp." Japan Forum Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 91-94.

Talks (since 2017)

"Against Invaders, Pirates, and Wizards: Technological Interest and Young Microcomputer Users in Japan during the 1980s." Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, June 23, 2023.

"Under a Black Sun. Kyoto Intellectuals and the 1970 Osaka Expo as Space of Anti-imperial and Post-modern Politics." Workshop Kyoto’s Imperial Modernity, Kyoto University, Dec 9-11, 2022.
"Japanese Computer Counterculture: Utopia and Ideology from the 1970s to the Corona Pandemic." Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, December 11, 2022.

"Religion, Californian Counterculture and Ethno-Environmental Politics of Japanese Hippies, 1965-1989." Institute for the Research in Humanties, Kyoto University, September 8, 2022.

"Radical Philosophy or Civil Society? On the Historic-Political Impact of ‘1968’ in the Twenty-First Century." International Workshop, Insitute for Research in Humanties, Kyoto University, November 19, 2021.
"Gary Snyder, the Suwanose Hippies, and Green Religion in the Japanese New Left, 1964-1973." The Sixth Biennial Conference of East Asian Environmental History, Kyoto University, (online), September 7-10, 2021.

"From Automation to Systemization: The MARS Computer Network and Children Computer Education in 1980s Japan." HeKKSaGOn Global History from Asian Perspectives Joint Research Project WORKSHOP, Sep 1, 2021.
"Making the Organs of Total Production: Some Preliminary Remarks on a History of Computerization in Japan, 1960-1990." Institute for Research in the Humanities, Kyoto University. Jan 31, 2020.

『1970年代の新左翼におけるマイノリティ解放論と部落民運動』 「部落解放論研究会の第28回の研究会」 Ōsaka, Jan 26, 2020.
"Ōta Ryū and the Anti-imperialist Left‘s Awkward Relationship with Nature." Institute for Research in the Humanities, Kyoto University.Oct 28, 2019.
"'Erfolg' oder 'Niederlage?' Diskontinuitäten in Theorie und politischer Praxis in der Neuen Linken nach 1968." Das Erbe der Meiji-Restauration Wege zur liberalen Demokratie 1868 – 2018, Halle University (Germany), Dec 14, 2018

"Das Ende der Arbeiterklasse auf Hokkaidō? Zechenschließung, Streiks und Rationalisierung in den 1960er Jahren." Deutschspachiger Japanologentag 2018, Sep 30, 2018.

"Discovering liberated landscapes: The Japanese New Left’s “spatial turn” after 1968." Words and Violence: Global History of the 1968 Protests in Japan and its Contemporary Meaning, Leiden University (Belgium), Aug 21, 2018.

"Maikon in Maihōmu? Ein Werkstattbericht einer Geschichte des Heimcomputers in Japan." Initiative Historische Japanforschung, CEEJA, France, Jun 15, 2018.

Die Arbeiter als Feinde: Die Neue Linke und der Antijapanismus nach der Studentenrevolte von 1968. Japan Zentrum, LMU München, June 14, 2018.
"What is proletarian memory? Writing about class, agency, and history in 20th century Japan." DAAD-JSPS Kyoto-Heidelberg Joint Research Project “Entangled Pasts in the Global Present: Gender, Labor and Citizenship”, Kyoto University, Apr 9, 2018.
"Resisting the Comrades: Dissent and Dissidence Among Left-Wing Activists in 1920s and 1930s Japan." Deutscher Orientalistentag 2017, Jena University (Germany), Sep 21, 2017.

"Proletarian Knowledge: Intellectuals, Workers, and Class Emancipation at the Tōkyō University Settlement Workers School." European Association of Japanese Studies, Lisbon University (Portugal), Sep 1, 2017.

"Theorie und Praxis der japanischen studentischen Linken." Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany), Apr 27, 2017.

"On the Margins of the Global North: A History of the Working People on Hokkaidō." Entangled Pasts in the Global Present: Gender, Labor and Citizenship, Apr 1, 2017.