United States

EMBCA’s Panel Discussion on Legacy of Lafcadio Hearn/Koizumi Yakumo in America

September 26, 2023

NEW YORK – The Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented a fascinating online discussion on September 24 titled The Legacy of Lafcadio Hearn/ Koizumi Yakumo in America, commemorating the anniversary of the Greek-Irish Hearn’s passing on September 26, 1904 in Okubo, Tokyo, Japan. The panel discussion was introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos, EMBCA’s President.

The distinguished panel included Simon J. Bronner, Dean of the College of General Studies and Distinguished Professor of Social Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee; author, reporter, and President of the Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA Steve Kemme; and author, poet Nicholas Alexiou, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Hellenic American Project at Queens College.

As Katsos noted in his introduction, “Lafcadio Hearn/ Koizumi Yakumo was born on June 27, 1850 in Lefkada, Greece, to Rosa Antoniou Kassimatis, a Hellenic woman of noble Kytheran lineage, and Charles Hearn, an Irish-born British surgeon who was stationed in Lefkada.”

“Lafcadio Hearn was a pioneering Greek-Irish writer, journalist, and ethnographer who left an enduring legacy in America, and later in Japan, through his unique contributions to literature and cultural understanding,” Katsos continued. “His writings, which continue to captivate readers and scholars alike and his contributions as a literary bridge between cultures remain a testament to his enduring significance in the realms of literature, cross-cultural understanding, and the exploration of the unknown.”

“Although he is famously known by most people for his profound impact on the understanding of Japan and its culture in the late 19th century, our panel discussion will focus on his profound legacy in America, and a topic overlooked by some,” Katsos said. “In the U.S., where he arrived in 1869, he was regarded by some as America’s foremost ethnographic documentarian of the 19th century and probably Japan’s also where he lived later and married into an old Samurai family Yakumo eventually becoming a Japanese citizen and where he was/is known as Koizumi Yakumo.”

EMBCA presented The Legacy of Lafcadio Hearn/ Koizumi Yakumo in America on September 24. (Photo: TNH Staff)

“In America Lafcado made significant contributions to literature through his works set in Cincinnati and New Orleans,” Katsos noted, adding that “Hearn’s perceptive observations and vivid descriptions captured the essence of Cincinnati’s vibrant communities, architecture, and daily life.”

“However, it was in New Orleans, the Crescent City, that Hearn’s literary legacy truly blossomed and where he is credited with ‘inventing’ New Orleans as an ‘exotic and mysterious place,’” Katsos said. “His deep fascination with the city’s unique blend of cultures and traditions led him to create some of his most captivating works.”

Katsos then introduced Professor Bronner whose presentation was titled Lafcadio Hearn’s America: Interpreting East and West and included slides and the reading of excerpts from various works by Hearn. He noted that his perspective on Hearn “is from the point of view of folklore.”

Bronner said: “I do believe that his origins in Greece to what was considered a mixed marriage as well as his many travels shaped his non-nationalistic or his transnational view of culture and his fascination with what the roots and sources are particularly in folklore.”

Steve Kemme, president of the Lafcadio Hearn Society/USA, former reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, where Hearn formerly worked, and author of The Outsider: The Life and Work of Lafcadio Hearn: The Man who Introduced Voodoo, Creole Cooking and Japanese Ghosts to the World, focused on Hearn’s Cincinnati writings in his presentation, including graphic descriptions of murder scenes from his years as a journalist in the city.

Professor Alexiou observed that Hearn is “known for his works that explore the cultural intersections between East and West” and shared some of Hearn’s notable works with a brief summary of each, noting that “throughout his life, Hearn displayed a profound interest in marginalized and peripheral societies, and this curiosity found robust expression in his American works.”

Video of the discussion is available on EMBCA’s YouTube channel: https://shorturl.at/ejpQV.


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