Former Prime Ministers in Japanese Politics: Who’s Sori Now? – Hugo Dobson


This lecture is based on a current research project that seeks to make two contributions. First of all, it provides an alternative political history of Japan from the perspective of former prime ministers and their post-premierships. Japan’s modern political history is a relatively well-researched field presenting little opportunity for new perspectives. However, by focusing on what happens after a prime minister has stepped down, this project shifts our attention from the usual concerns of political biography towards the question of what happened next. This project seeks to answer that simple but elusive question ‘where are they now?’

Second, it is hoped that this project appeals not only to political historians but also to political scientists by categorizing and evaluating the various roles of informal actors in domestic and international politics, but in the specific case of former Japanese prime ministers. As there is no template or precedent for what prime ministers do after retirement, these post-premierships can be varied and overlapping. Former prime ministers may continue to exert influence behind the scenes; they may return to the top job or a ministerial role; they may assume an unofficial role but still be actively engaged in the political process; they may make a career break and move into a new field; they might publish their memoirs; or, they may even retire completely from the limelight. Whatever the post-retirement role they assume, these can be categorized in order to shed light on possible sources of influence and power, official or unofficial, formal or informal, that have been ignored and under-researched up until now.

Hugo Dobson is Professor of Japan’s International Relations at the National Institute of Japanese Studies and currently Head of the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield. His research interests are broadly divided into two strands. The first strand focuses upon international relations, multilateral organisations and global governance, especially the G8 and G20 and Japan’s role therein. The second strand of his research explores the role of images in shaping our understanding of international relations and Japan’s role in the world, from postage stamps and logos to TV programmes such as The Simpsons.

Date: Monday 29 June 2015, 6.45pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St), London WC1A 2TH

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