Chapter 6
SOCIALIZATION OF NATURE:
MUSEUMIFICATION

Finally, we shall look at museums as they appear in the de-
constructed cultural landscape, poised between a ghost town
and a child's play pen.

—Susan M. Pearce (1992)

In short, the debate boils down to whether history is con-
cerned with life or the petrifaction of life.

—Didier Maleuvre (1999)

IN HIS 1917 appraisal of Japan, after decades of admiration through his friendship with Okakura, Rabindranath Tagore writes, as if betrayed:

I have seen in Japan the voluntary submission of the whole people to the trimming of
their minds and clipping of their freedom by their government, which through vari-
ous educational agencies regulates their thoughts, manufactures their feelings, be-
comes suspiciously watchful when they show signs of inclining toward the spiritual,
leading them through a narrow path not toward what is true but what is necessary for
the complete welding of them into one uniform mass according to its own recipe.
The people accept this all-pervading mental slavery with cheerfulness and pride be-
cause of their nervous desire to turn themselves into a machine of power, called the
Nation, and emulate other machines in their collective worldliness. (38–39)

Tagore's criticism came after years of praise and admiration of Japan for the way that it was both preserving its culture—speaking for an Orient—and becoming modern. Along with Okakura, he supported the transformation of the archipelago into a nation based on the more rational, Hegelian idea. As in the previous three chapters, we have moved increasingly away from the material toward abstractions that provide a historical framework. But as Tagore's critique suggests, a vexing problem of this elevation of abstractions is how these new ideas are to be integrated into the lives of the people they profess to describe.

Although Tagore's statement suggests a betrayal or turnabout, rather than a deviation from the years when he partnered with Okakura, it should be considered a continuation, where the ideals and artifacts they praised became integrated into the social structure of modern Japan. In his discussion of the museum, Didier Maleuvre writes, “The paradox of museums lies in their representing the

-168-

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New Times in Modern Japan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • New Times in Modern Japan xi
  • Prelude - Time, Pasts, History 1
  • Chapter 1 - Discovery of Pasts 27
  • Chapter 2 - “nothing is the Way It Should Be” 54
  • Chapter 3 - Naturalization of Nation: Essential Time 85
  • Chapter 4 - Naturalization of Nation: Chronological Time 111
  • Chapter 5 - Socialization of Society 144
  • Chapter 6 - Socialization of Nature: Museumification 168
  • Epilogue 193
  • Works Cited 203
  • Index 219
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