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On to the Empty Table: Althusser's 'materialism of the encounter' and the case of Korean day workers in interwar Japan

By Ken Kawashima, University of Toronto/Korea Colloquium Series

Friday, October 23, 2009
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
11377 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

In this talk, Ken Kawashima highlights the salient arguments of his book, The Proletarian Gamble: Korean workers in interwar Japan (Duke University Press, 2009), a book about the struggles of Korean workers within and against the networks of commodification and power of Japanese day labor markets. These struggles, Kawashima argues, not only revealed the precariousness of Korean workers in Japan, but also the radical instability and vulnerability of the capitalist commodity economy itself. At the same time, these struggles disclosed techniques of control by state and para-state organizations that strove to compensate for market vulnerabilities and instabilities. Nonetheless, the instability of the capitalist system was exposed by these proletarians, who through their collective practices—and borrowing a phrase from Louis Althusser—"threw back the dice on to the empty table." Kawashima approaches this "gamble" in relation to the thinking of what Althusser called a "materialism of the contingent encounter", which Kawashima elaborates in relation to the thought of Marx, Foucault, and others, and with the goal of thinking the possibility of new political practices that work towards the invention of a world other than the capitalist commodity economy of our present conjuncture.

Ken C. Kawashima is Associate Professor, Dept. of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

Open to the public.

Cost : Free


Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Claremont McKenna College

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