Critique of/in Japanese Studies: New challenges and new approaches

The conference is hosted by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences , Chiba University

Venue: Chiba University, Nishi-Chiba Campus, General Studies Complex (General Education/College of Liberal Arts and Sciences), rooms G1-101 and G1-201 (far left of the building numbered 1 and colored in purple on the campus map ).

Since the cultural/reflexive turn in academia, Japanese Studies (and Area Studies) have legitimately become the subject of serious criticism in regards to the various political roles that they have performed, and perhaps continue to play as they acquire new significance in the internationalization efforts that have recently targeted Japanese high-school and university education institutions. In terms of research, publications appearing in Japanese Studies journals and monograph series have dealt, in turn, with a growingly diverse array of subject-matters, and, have, by extent, become more relevant to a non-Japanese Studies audience. Today, we can perhaps say that, academically, “Japan” is less of an object of study and more of a case-study. Yet, the continuous popularity of any sort of popular culture bearing the “Japan” label, as well as the nationwide socio-political shifts that have followed the 3.11 triple disaster, keep “Japan” as a totalizing object of discourse afloat. In fact, we are perhaps finding ourselves in an increasingly paradoxical situation, in which areas, such as education, politics, and especially the media tend to reinforce the old (self)orientalist and homogenizing intonations of the “unique Japan”-paradigm, while to form their arguments they are feeding off academic studies that are instead trying to emphasize the contingency of the term “Japanese.” How do we deal with these issues? Perhaps, it is now more important than ever to bring back in academic debates the role of ‘critique’ (rather than criticism).

In her studies of contemporary consumer culture and late modern capitalist societies, sociologist Eva Illouz has called for the practice of an ‘impure critique,’ namely a critique that would stave off what she identifies as the four problems with traditional, “pure” critique: 1) the reduction of cultural texts and practices to their ability (or inability) to deliver a clear political or moral stance on the world; 2) the assumption that culture ought to be analyzed from the standpoint of all social spheres; 3) the perspective that culture can be wholly contained by and subsumed under the political; and, finally, 4) the attempt to ignore that the critic of contemporary culture is condemned to be located within the very commodified area he or she criticizes (Eva Illouz, 2007, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, Polity, pp. 91-95).

This conference seeks to bring papers from all researchers currently working on Japan-related topics. We particularly welcome those who are interested in at least one of the two following categories:

  • Critiques of Japanese Studies as a field of academic research,
  • Critiques of Japan as a subject of educational curricula and/or an object of media discourse or political discourse.
  • Critiques within specific Japanese Studies research areas, such as literature, history, politics, religion etc.

Keynote Lecture on Saturday 27 May:

‘A Moral Firestorm:’ The Politics of Researching Controversial Manga in Japan and Beyond? Patrick W. Galbraith (Duke University)


Saturday 27 May

*10:00~10:20 Opening Remarks (G1-101)


Session 1 (G1-101)

1) Desirable differences but willful subjects: Ainu performance and those who (do not) see them, Roslynn Ang (New York University)

2) Negative particularism revisited: Kuwabara Takeo’s critique of Japanese tradition and postwar cultural politics, Adam Bronson (Durham University)

3) Perceptions of Japan’s ‘uniqueness’: A source of research motivation or a source of research bias? Implications for the design of case-study research, Keith Jackson (University of London, SOAS & Doshisha University) and Andrew Homer (Link Global Solution Inc., Tokyo)

Session 2 (G1-201)

4) Discourse of “monozukuri” and the political-economy of truth, Yuka Hasegawa (University of Hawaii)

5) Inside and outside the ‘mythistory’ of Japan: Reconciling metanarratives of artifice and plurality in a (post)post-modern epoch, A R Woollock (University of Southampton, Dalian)

6) Revisiting the State: The new approach to understanding Japanese politics in an era of governance, Masahiro Mogaki (Keio University)

*12:10~13:30 Lunch break

*13:30~14:30 Keynote (G1-201)

‘A moral firestorm’: The politics of researching controversial manga in Japan and beyond, Patrick W. Galbraith (Duke University)

*14:30~15:00 Coffee break (G1-101)


Session 3 (G1-101)

7) Much ado about very little: Ministry of Education policy on the social sciences and humanities in Japanese national universities, Earl Kinmonth (Taisho University)

8) English Medium Instruction (EMI) of Japanese Studies at Japanese universities, Robert Aspinall (Doshisha University)

9) Diversifying knowledge on Japan at the level of educational practice: Advantages and challenges of a ‘native’ anthropologist’s attempts to teach English-medium undergraduate courses on Japan, Sachiko Horiguchi (Temple University Japan Campus)

10) Learning from history: Towards an impure Japanese Studies curriculum?, Alwyn Spies (University of British Columbia)

Session 4 (G1-201)

11) What counts as criticism? The Nameless Book (ca. 1200) and the beginnings of literary criticism in Japan, Joseph T. Sorensen (University of California, Davis)

12) A critique or alternative perspective to modernising Japanese theatre: Intercultural aspects of popular entertainment, Ayumi Fujioka (Sugiyama University)

13) Re-framing Japan in a transnational network: Exoticism and global modernity in the works of Enrique Gómez Carrillo, Facundo Garasino (Osaka University)

14) The right to misunderstand Japanese cinema: Imamura Taihei, Tsurumi Shunsuke, and Muthu the Dancing Maharaja, Rea Amit (Illinois College)


Sunday 28 May


Session 5 (G1-101)

15) Critique in early Japan – Ishinpō as a case study of intellectual change, Mujeeb Khan (University of Tokyo)

16) The “Shiba view of history” and its critics: Reading/watching/traveling “Clouds Above the Hill”, Philip Seaton (Hokkaido University)

17) What are you? Who am I? – Issues in working on Korea under Japanese Rule, Juljan Biontino (Chiba University)

Session 6 (G1-201)

18) Border and boundaries: A critical approach to linguistic and spatial practices at a Japanese university campus, Satoko Shao-Kobayashi (Chiba University)

19) Is there such a thing as “Japanese philosophy”?, Roman Pasca (Kanda University of International Studies)

20) Rhythm” in the prose of Shiga Naoya: A phenomenological view, Olga Zaberezhnaia (Moscow State University)

*12:10~13:30 Lunch break


Session 7 (G1-101)

21) Emphasising the everyday in transnational children’s media, Anya Benson (Chuo University)

22) Critiquing ‘Japanese masculinity’ studies: Emerging masculinities and their challenge to established approaches, Laura Clark (University of Queensland)

23) Challenging texts, locating contexts: Strengthening Media Studies within Japanese Studies, Sally McLaren (Kwansei Gakuin University)

24) Phonocentrism and free jazz critique: A comparative analysis of Japanese and American discourses on improvisation, Jacopo Bortolussi (Birkbeck University)

Session 8 (G1-201)

25) ‘The yakuza who? Negligence and (self) orientalisation in a ‘crime-free’ society, Martina Baradel (Birkbeck, University of London)

26) Industrial policy as a framework for understanding State approaches to violent extremism, Hilary Dauer (Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

27) The politics of Confucianism in contemporary Japan, Alexandra Mustatea (Toyo University)

28) The cultural enactment of identity politics of “pacifism”: Comparing political cultures in Japan today, Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen (University of London, SOAS)

*15:45~16:00 Closing remarks (G1-101)


Attendance is free and no registration is required.

(You do not need to be a member of BAJS to attend this event.)

For all inquiries, please email Ioannis GAITANIDIS,

A selection of the presentations will be considered for publication in a special issue of New Ideas in East Asian Studies (

The deadline for submitting the full papers is set for August 17th.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Chiba University in May!