My work is comparative insofar as I examine the processes of translation that people undertook at different times to make sense of new political situations. My studies of Fukuzawa Yukichi’s translations of John Stuart Mill, Nakae Chōmin’s translation of Rousseau, and other key figures in the history of Japanese political thought bring out the ways in which they compared their own situtations, and thier own language, to those of others half way around the world.
However, Political Theory as a discipline has recently begun to group any work that deals with non-European subjects or the interaction between “Western” and “Non-Western” thinkers under the umbrella term “Comparative Political Theory.” While my work certainly fits this definition, I also try to challenge it whenever possible.
My research begins from the premise that “theory” can refer to any of the myriad ways that people make the world around them intelligible. People are constantly engaged in a process of comparing their ideas with world and with other people. Comparative political theory, therefore, knows no borders or cultural boundaries. The European/Non-European distinction is both misleading and Eurocentric. Theory is simply people offering their particular way of looking at the world however they choose to do it. This means doing away with the idea of a cannon of political theory once and for all.
I aim to understand the ways in which people bring their ideas into contrast with the thoughts and practices of those around them, how these encounters affect the participants, and how history changes as a result. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which people make sense of radically new practices or articulate brand new ideas from outside of their own everyday experience. This might take the form of a translated text, a traveller returning from abroad, or the exhibition of a new work of art. Regardless of the form, I do my best to understand how people have made sense of these experiences, and how they change the way the world appears to them.