Lecture Discussion 11/18

Description of Source Materials to Partner (Workshop)

My first source comes as a view on economic progression for a nation with the implementation of railways, but the piece mostly centers around the social effects that railways had within the society. Due to the different sectors, urban vs rural, in Japan the responses to the modern machine of the train was viewed in contrasting responses. While the already more modernized urban areas of Japan readily, fear of the mechanized trains plagued the rural areas. This source demonstrates how the societal/local perception of trains affected its usage within those specific areas.

Foster, Michael Dylan. “Haunting Modernity: Tanuki, Trains, and Transformation in Japan.” Asian Ethnology (2012): 3-29. PDF.

Questions for Niki-About the historical shift of centralized industrialization to manufacturing in different countries:

What caused this change? What was the historical context for this change? Was it sudden and what country was the most affected by the shift of the business/production model?

Questions posed by Niki about trains in my paper:

“Different definitions of progress in the West vs the East: In the West the train is seen as major contribution to society and modernization. How did the globalization via the train shaped other countries’ views of the US?”

The origin of railways dates back to the Greeks and the most prevalent image of trains as a symbol of modernization/contribution to society would be in the Industrial Revolution. But to answer how the globalization of the train shaped other countries’ views of the US would require more research. But as far as my current knowledge goes, Eastern nations such as Japan and China have much for technologically advances and integrated train systems in their societies. With such vast improvements to Eastern railways systems compared the almost forgotten systems within the US, my assumption would be that other countries believe that, and rightfully so, that their modernized trains/railway systems demonstrate their superiority in that category of life for their citizens.

Working Thesis:

Historically trains have had a major role within the economic and cultural spheres of many nations, making them a focal point within the society. However as societies evolve, so do cultural perspectives which in return affect trains and their usage/importance or lack thereof within the society.


One thought on “Lecture Discussion 11/18

  1. Your working thesis is a good start. I suggest narrowing it, however: trying to assess trains through many histories of many nations would be incredibly difficult. I think it would make more sense to focus on this issue in an American context, since that’s where we are and such an evaluation could be incredibly useful for assessing our own culture. Why are passenger trains so rare in the US, from intercity to urban rail systems? Most of American is startlingly train-free. What kinds of value systems does this illustrate about our current society? What fears do trains bring up in America? What hopes for trains do we have?

    For this, I think it could be incredibly useful for you to look up early 20th-century predictions of society, including things like the Epcot Center. In almost all of them, trains have become universal transportation. So something very dramatic changed in our concept of the future, and it changed how we literally built our society. We have a lot of old technology magazines in our library, and I would bet that MASC has old photographs and materials on train travel. I also just typed “trains of the future” into google, and a lot of current predictions for train travel are coming up. How do they compare to each other?


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