Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations
Henning, Joseph M., The Historian
Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations. By Michael R. Auslin. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. 315. $49.95.)
From McDonald's to sushi, from baseball to anime, exchanges of popular culture between the United States and Japan have wrought changes that many people take for granted. In this book, Michael R. Auslin describes the often deliberate efforts by Americans and Japanese to export their cultures across the Pacific, beginning with the opening of relations in the nineteenth century and continuing to the present.
Over the last few decades, historians of U.S. foreign relations have explored new analytical approaches, sparking a debate on the relationships between culture and policy in international relations. Scholars no longer limit their attention to diplomatic history and its focus on the exercise of power by states. They now also study the roles played by nonstate actors and nongovernmental organizations. Although Auslin rarely addresses this historiography, Pacific Cosmopolitans is a foray in this direction and advances readers' understanding of U.S.-Japanese relations. It does not claim to be an exhaustive study, instead focusing primarily on organizations that fostered cultural exchanges.
Pacific Cosmopolitans begins with a quick introduction in which Auslin does not define what he means by "culture." Throughout the book, he uses the term freely to encompass those aspects of international encounters that are not primarily political or economic. He assumes the reader will share his unspoken understanding of each type of encounter. When the cultural, political, and economic become intertwined, as they do frequently in this work, it becomes difficult to discern where one ends and the others begin. …