Being a consistent critic of Shinzo Abe, the third longest serving Prime Minister of Post-war Japan is no task for the weak-hearted. Prof Dr Jeff Kingston is anything but. An American residing in Japan for years, Kingston has seen the best of both East and West, and with his vast experiences and analytical skills, he has been penning both scholarly works and newspaper columns on politics and social changes in the last three decades.
His weekly column styled ‘Counterpoint’ in The Japan Times-in where he had been writing since 1988, has become one of the most read and revered columns of the publication in the last four years. In September 23, Kingston wrote his last Counterpoint column for The Japan Times titled “In Japan under Shinzo Abe, more power to the PM, but to what end?”
In that article, he wrote, “Sayonara readers, this is my final discordant Counterpoint after 3½ years. I have written for The Japan Times since 1988, mostly as a book reviewer, and learned a lot and met some great people along the way. Kudos to the professionals who over the years have made the JT the go-to source in English on Japan and with high hopes that the new owners will maintain the rich 120-year tradition of reporting “all the news without fear or favour.”
Prof Kingston, who teaches courses on modern Japanese history; contemporary Japan; Japan's relations with Asia; and modern Southeast Asia in the Temple University of Japan is indeed a lifelong advocate of “all the news without fear or favour.” And in an email sent to Dhaka Tribune, Prof Kingston wrote, “At times like this a free press willing and able to print all the news without fear or favour is essential to maintain democracy and the liberal norms and values this entails.”
“I read the Dhaka Tribune almost every day and find it a high quality newspaper that covers stores that much of the world press ignores or gets so wrong. It is a great service for those of us who seek to better understand the contemporary convulsions and challenges that beset Asia and its diverse peoples,” he wrote.
Kingston is coming to Dhaka in this month to take part in Dhaka Lit Fest (DLF). He is one of the speakers in this year’s edition. Prior to his arrival, Dhaka Tribune has conducted an email interview of Prof Kingston.
Asked what part of DLF has attracted him and entices him to come here, he replied that is a space for exchanges about what animates the world and gathers people from all over the world who he never would have a chance to meet otherwise.
“I first visited Dhaka in 2008 just as the Lehman Bros collapse was happening. I also went to Chittagong to visit AUW and see what was going on there, meeting incredibly talented young women from across the region going leadership training. Bold initiatives like this can transform Asia and reveal the dynamism of Bangladesh that sometimes gets obscure in dry statistics.”
Dr Kingston wrote he finds Bangladesh a fascinating and vibrant society. He came to Dhaka this April and met several intellectuals who helped him with his ongoing research for a book project on religion, identity and nationalism in Asia.
“I hope to meet them and others again at the DLF.”
When asked what he would talk about at the DLF, he replied, “I hope to talk about press freedom in Asia--a new book project I am editing (and meet contributors). I would also like to talk about the future of liberalism and illiberal democracy, my experiences of living in Japan for three decades and the issues of religion, identity and nationalism in Asia.”
His message to audiences in Dhaka? “In a world that seems to relentlessly drive us to despair, take actions that inspire and take time to sows seeds of positive transformations wherever you go.”