Dr. Robert G. Kane
Professor, Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences
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- Office Location:
- Timon Hall, Room 134
My main research interests are in the interplay of ideas of race, democracy, and national security in U.S.-Japan relations in the early twentieth century. Using U.S. and Japanese sources, I explain how contests for political power and rhetorical authority within each country drove policymaking and perceptions. Japanese and Americans across the political spectrum exploited national keywords, narratives and emotions to promote competing programs for internal stability and international stature. Embedded in domestic contests were abstract versions of Japan, the United States and other nations onto which Americans and Japanese projected their hopes and fears. Global communications networks allowed internal debates to inform parallel deliberations abroad. But the passions of faraway speakers captured local imaginations more often than deeper political contexts did, and old stereotypes shaped opinions. Domestic rivalries over defense planning, immigration and other matters led to overinflated views of foreign intentions and capabilities, fueling anticipations of war. Moreover, words meant for domestic consumption grossly exaggerated disparities between Japan and the U.S., while debates among Japanese and among Americans were often more intense and influential than bilateral tensions. Despite real points of friction and the racist demagoguery that saturated transnational rhetoric at the time, a shared vision of international cooperation kept bilateral relations sound into the 1920s. In short, most Japanese and Americans imagined a far better future than what they got and what subsequent scholars have since remembered.
Recently, I have also become fascinated with temporality and the ways that politicians and policymakers use the future in decision making. I have been particularly drawn to the works of Philip Tetlock and Daniel Kahneman on forecasting, Reinhart Koselleck on historical time, and Lee Smolin on why time matters to physics. I am building a new analytical framework that I will apply to my research in Japan-U.S. relations in the early twentieth century, a time when, similar to the nuclear age, policymakers planned for wars that never happened.
Ph.D. History, University of Pennsylvania, 2002
M.A. History, University of Pennsylvania, 1996
M.A. Asian Studies, Cornell University, 1992
B.A. History, Williams College, 1988
American Historical Association; Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
Association for Asian Studies
Society for the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
National Consortium for Teaching about Asia