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The Nature of the BeastsEmpire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo$
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Ian Jared Miller

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780520271869

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520271869.001.0001

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Pandas in the Anthropocene

Pandas in the Anthropocene

Japan’s “Panda Boom” and the Limits of Ecological Modernity

(p.193) Chapter 6 Pandas in the Anthropocene
The Nature of the Beasts

Ian Jared Miller

University of California Press

This chapter considers the conflicted status of wild animals in postwar Japan, at once objects of intense cultural and scientific attention and subject to relentless ecological marginalization. This dynamic reached its apex in the so-called panda boom of the late twentieth century. The arrival of two giant pandas at the Ueno Zoo in celebration of diplomatic normalization between Japan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sparked an explosion of postimperial fascination with all things Chinese. Fueled by a culture industry eager to extract maximum profit from the alluring black-and-white bears, the most endangered ursine species on the planet, attendance hit world-historical highs for more than a decade. This hyper-consumerism coincided with a shift in environmental consciousness in the 1970s. In wider society, the contradictions between consumerism and conservationism often remain hidden, but the histories of Tokyo’s pandas—the most-viewed nonhuman animals on the planet—throw modernity’s vexed relationship with the natural world into sharp relief.

Keywords:   panda boom, giant panda, panda, panda diplomacy, neoteny, anthropocene culture, bio-technology, the biotechnology of cute, cute culture, conservationsim

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