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Following the Great Kanto Earthquake by Prof Charles Schencking

Asia Research Institute, NUS
Organisator der Veranstaltung Asia Research Institute, NUS


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Jointly organized by Yale-NUS College, and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

America’s Humanitarian Moment with Japan: Generosity, Diplomacy, and Disillusionment following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

Prof Charles Schencking, University of Hong Kong

Assoc Prof Greg Clancey, Asia Research Institute, and Tembusu College, National University of Singapore

In the days following Japan’s most deadly and destructive natural disaster of the modern era, Americans opened their wallets, purses, and corporate warehouses like never before—or again—in response to an overseas disaster. Americans gave to what was billed by the American Red Cross as the “supreme helpful opportunity of our generation” in a manner described by the Los Angeles Times as “an orgy of cheerful giving.” Importantly, Americans gave money and supplies to Japan in a different manner to previous humanitarian emergencies in Europe, the Near East, China, and the USSR: they allowed Japan complete administrative and logistical control over all supplies, cash, and donations.

Why did Americans give so much aid to Japan and give it differently? What did they give and were these goods needed or even desired? How did Japanese officials, commentators, and people interpret America’s colossal outpouring of aid? What were the legacies of America’s generous humanitarian moment with Japan? In answering these questions, Charles Schencking not only provides new insight into US-Japan relations, President Coolidge’s nascent foreign policy and how many Americans saw their country--and wished to be seen by others—in the post WWI world, but also helps us better understand humanitarianism in the world today. Why, for instance, do we give more to some distant sufferers than others? How best can we provide for those in need? Moreover, how does a recipient nation balance local needs with global expectations that often accompany humanitarian engagements and interventions?

Charles Schencking is Professor of Japanese History and Chair of the Arts Faculty Board at the University of Hong Kong. He has published widely on natural disasters, the environment, war, state and society in 20th century Japan. This talk is part of his larger RGC-funded book project entitled America’s Tsunami of Aid: Humanitarianism, Opportunism, and Betrayal following Japan’s 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button to RSVP | https://ari.nus.edu.sg/Event/Detail/85a11acd-6c68-4dbe-8a1b-94d4560e7536

Source of image: Published in Newport News, VA, Daily Press 12 September 1923, 4.

Ort der Durchführung der Veranstaltung

Asia Research Institute, NUS