World War II in Asia and Africa

Discipline: History
Instructor: Huffman
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0800
End: 0915
Field Work: Day 3 - Kobe - Saturday, 31 January | Japan Download Syllabus

This course will examine the complex forces that caused, propelled, and resulted from World War II in the Pacific and African theaters. We will look at the causes of the war, both domestic and international, at the major strategies of both sides, and at the key events of the conflagration, as well as at the impact the war had on civilians at home.  The course’s emphasis will be on the social and political sides of the war rather than on military history. We will pay attention to the moral issues raised by certain wartime decisions, including the bombing of civilian populations, and at the way the war changed (and, in some cases, did not change) Africa and Asia over the long term.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 3 - Kobe - Saturday, 31 January

We will spend a day in the ancient city of Kyoto, visiting three temples: the 500-year-old rock garden at Ryōanji, the gold pavilion at Kinkakuji, and Kiyomizu temple, which was founded in the eighth century. The three temples, two of the Zen sect, the other of the Kita Hossō sect, seethe with both energy and tranquility and would seem to have little to do with war. That, however, will be the theme of this field lab. Visiting them, we will ponder two focus questions:

  • What if Kyoto had been bombed?
  • How does one reconcile two strands in Japanese culture: Zen contemplation and wartime ferocity?
Academic Objectives: 1. To understand the importance of Koyto as a cultural sphere 2. To understand the impact of Kyoto’s cultural importance in relationship to Allied wartime goals 3. To reflect on the apparent contradiction between Buddhism’s pacifist values and Zen’s support of wartime expansion.