BAJS Conference 2018: Crisis? What Crisis? Continuity, and Change in Japan

5-7 September 2018 University of Sheffield, UK

Since the collapse of the Bubble Economy, Japan has often been described as being in demographic, economic or and/or social crisis. In recent years, however, significant legal and constitutional changes have been proposed, implemented and resisted; signs of sustained economic growth have appeared for the first time in several decades; and a reassertive global image of what it means to be Japanese is being promoted, particularly in the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics of 2020. As in other moments in Japanese history, tensions between desires for transformative social change and continuity have reappeared, framed by regular moments of crisis, sometimes real, sometimes perceived.

Debates over how political, social, economic, and cultural change occurs in Japan, both in the past and present, have often swung between these narratives of crisis, continuity and change. These frameworks have also shaped much of the study of Japan in the UK and elsewhere across a wide range of disciplinary approaches.

In the sesquicentennial of the Meiji Restoration and the fiftieth anniversary of the  debates prompted by the protests of  1968, the British Association for Japanese Studies, with the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, invites scholars to reflect on these narratives of change, continuity and crisis and their usefulness in the 21st century.

Confirmed keynote speakers for the conference are: Professor Mōri Yoshitaka (Tokyo University of Arts) and Professor Gennifer Weisenfeld (Duke University). We are delighted to have two leading scholars in Japanese Studies joining us who are both in different ways interested in exploring cultural and social responses to crisis. Further details on the speakers is below.

Mōri Yoshitaka is Professor in Sociology and Cultural Studies in the Graduate School of Global Arts at Tokyo University of the Arts. He holds a PhD and MA from Goldsmiths, University of London and a BA in economics from Kyoto University. Professor Mōri is the author of multiple books and articles on contemporary social and cultural movements, art and culture in times of crisis, and cultural industries in East Asia. Publications include Sutoriito no shisō (The Philosophy of the Street) (2009, in Japanese and Korean) and Popyura ongaku to shihonshugi (Popular Music and Capitalism) (2007, 2nd ed. 2012). In English, he has published in journals including Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, World Art and the International Journal of Japanese Sociology.

Gennifer Weisenfeld, Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies and Dean of the Humanities at Duke University, received her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Her field of research is modern and contemporary Japanese art history, design, and visual culture. Her first book Mavo: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1905-1931 (University of California Press, 2002) addresses the relationship between high art and mass culture in the aesthetic politics of the avant-garde in 1920s Japan. And her most recent book Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923 (University of California Press, 2012, Japanese edition Seidosha, 2014) examines how visual culture has mediated the historical understanding of Japan’s worst national disaster of the twentieth century. She is currently working on two new book projects, one titled The Fine Art of Persuasion: Corporate Advertising Design, Nation, and Empire in Modern Japan, and the other, Protect the Skies! Visualizing Civil Air Defense in Wartime Japan.

Panel and paper proposals on any topic related to Japan are welcome from scholars working in all disciplines. However, we specifically invite proposals that explore the following themes in both historical and contemporary contexts:

  •        how crisis, continuity and change have been understood in Japan during moments of social transformation
  •        commemoration, historicisation and theorisation of such moments in Japan
  •        labels such as the ‘Lost Decades’ and their usefulness in describing periods of transition
  •        relationships between perceived crisis and systems of social and political control as well as economic reform
  •        proposals for and resistance to legal and constitutional reform
  •        differentiated experiences of social change based on region, language, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or other individual characteristic
  •        linguistic and cultural borrowing, hybridisation and transformation in Japan
  •        Japanese responses to global moments of crisis or change, including climate change, war and terrorism
  •        representations of crisis, continuity and/or change in Japanese media, literature and popular culture
  •        the benefits and limitations of these frameworks for the study of Japan

We will accept individual paper proposals, but prefer presenters to organise themselves into pre-constituted 90 minute panels of 3-4 papers with an optional chair/discussant. We encourage proposers to consider diversity in the constitution of their panels – panels that reflect the diversity of Japanese Studies scholarship in terms of gender, ethnicity, seniority, and geographical/institutional location will be looked on most favourably. We are unlikely to accept panels that include participants of only one gender, or from only one institution. You are also welcome to use the BAJS Conference 2018 Facebook discussion page (  to find potential participants for your proposed panels.

Panel proposals should consist of:

  1. a title for the proposed panel
  2. an abstract of 250 words for the panel
  3. an abstract of 250 words per paper (maximum 4 papers)
  4. names and institutional affiliations of panel members, as well as a nominated single contact for the panel.

Individual proposals should consist of:

  1. the title of the paper
  2. an abstract of 250 words
  3. the presenter’s name and institutional affiliation.

Both types of proposal should be submitted to [email protected] by 30 November 2017, with notification of acceptance due by 28 February 2018.

General enquiries about the conference can be addressed to: [email protected]

Note that presenters at the BAJS conference must be current BAJS members - anyone whose paper is accepted will need to become a BAJS member prior to registering for the conference. Non-members can register online at:

Current members can confirm their membership status at:

A subsequent call for a PhD/early career workshop will follow in the coming months.

The University of Sheffield is a leading international research university and member of the Russell Group. Located in South Yorkshire and within easy access of several major international airports, Sheffield is a vibrant post-industrial city surrounded by the natural beauty of the Peak District National Park. The University of Sheffield’s School of East Asian Studies (SEAS) is one of Europe’s leading centres for research and teaching on East Asia. Originally established in 1963 as a priority national centre for Japanese Studies, SEAS now hosts large and growing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Japanese, Korean, Chinese and wider East Asian Studies and hosts a significant number of globally-recognised scholars working in the fields of East Asian politics and international relations, modern and contemporary history, economics and business, film and media studies, anthropology and sociology, linguistics, literature and language.

The 2018 BAJS conference local organising committee consists of Harald Conrad, Peter Matanle, Thomas McAuley (Chair), Mark Pendleton, Kate Taylor-Jones and Anna Vainio.