Yulia Mikhailova

Mesa P

Yulia Mikhailova

Hiroshima City University

We all know too well that in contrast to natural sciences, history has no axiomatic theory, no postulates accepted by everyone. There used to be a time when historians believed they were able to deal with objective historical facts. The age of modernity gave birth to two main political/ideological interpretations of facts the bourgeois liberal version and the Marxist one. In our age of post-modernity history is believed not to be the study of the "past as such", but to exist rather in the form of interpretations invented/imagined by scholars and narratives retold to audience.

I believe that on the one side, this paradigm of post-modernity increased the dependency of a historian on his/hers society and culture, the academic community and the audience the discourse is designed for. On the other side, because of the rapidly developing globalization historians often change their countries of residence and employment and are urged to be flexible and adaptable to new environments, in other words, to be international in their way of thinking. Thus, they may be confronted with a problem of building a credo of their own, including ethical and social commitments, which are essential for the genuine research. Can this be achieved and how? What factors contribute to the process? To what extent is a historian bound up with his/hers national identity and past? I would like to address these issues using my own experience of conducting research and teaching on Japanese history in such different societies as the former Soviet Union, Australia and Japan. I will attempt to demonstrate that in spite of the fact that we all live in the age of post-modernity in the broad sense, topics historians choose for their research tend to depend on the actual problems a particular society wants to solve, while approaches they adhere to may rather follow a more independent logic of the development of historical thought. For example, an acute interest to the study of Japanese cultural and intellectual history by the Soviet scholars was a sort of an escape from the officially sponsored Marxism. Concentration of Australians on the study of minorities or feminism in Japan is related to the problems of contemporary Australian society itself. The current preference of Japanese historians to see the history first of all as the result of competition between personal or group ambitions, but not as manifestation of "great historical laws" may reflect the on-going political and bureaucratic friction in this country.