May 29, 2009 Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney to Lecture at Library of Congress on "How Do Flowers Kill? – The Japanese Emperor and Modern Dictators"

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Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, an expert on symbols of Japanese identity, will compare the representations of the Meiji emperor of Japan with those of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler in a lecture at the Library of Congress titled “How Do Flowers Kill? – The Japanese Emperor and Modern Dictators.”

Ohnuki-Tierney will present the illustrated lecture at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center, the event is free and open to the public; tickets or reservations are not needed.

Ohnuki-Tierney, who holds the John W. Kluge Center Chair of Modern Culture at the Library of Congress, is the William F. Vilas Professor of Anthropology at the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. Ohnuki-Tierney’s term at the Library runs from February through July 2009.

Using examples from modern Japan, Germany and the Soviet Union, Ohnuki-Tierney will explore how different traditions use symbols in creating and expressing political, religious, and symbolic power. For example, the Meiji emperor of Japan (1868-1912) never appeared in person or in photos, and the populace never heard his voice. In contrast, the photos and other images of modern dictators, specifically Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, were displayed blatantly and their public oratory was important in acquiring and maintaining power. One tradition cultivated the hidden power of absence; the other emphasized the overt power of presence.

The lecture will contrast the symbolism of cherry blossoms as used by the Japanese state during the modern period with that of roses, which were extensively deployed by all three dictators in order to illustrate how the words and symbols through which humans try to communicate do not always ensure understanding among people. The lecture will be accompanied by a number of visual images.

Ohnuki-Tierney’s books include “Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers” (2006); “Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History” (2002); “Rice as Self: Japanese Identities through Time” (1993); and “The Monkey as Mirror: Symbolic Transformations in Japanese History and Ritual” (1989).

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit


PR 09-110
ISSN 0731-3527