School of Social Sciences

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      Europe Japan Research Centre

  • Podcasts

    Europe Japan Research Centre

    Podcasts from the Europe Japan Research Centre seminar series

    • And I Dance with Somebody: HIV/AIDS Activism, Queer Politics and Performance in 1990s Japan

      [Recorded 9th December 2020] Recent years have seen an increased focus on global cultural histories of HIV/AIDS of the 1980s and 1990s. However these have tended to focus on the transnational circulation of cultural products, activist networks and people across the North Atlantic, and specifically in the Anglophone world. In this talk marking World AIDS Day, I make some preliminary claims for a greater significance of Japan in a global history of HIV/AIDS of the 1990s. I focus on the events surrounding the first World AIDS Conference held outside Europe and North America (in Yokohama in 1994) and the transnational movements of theatre productions, performance, visual arts and other cultural products in and out of Japan around this time period. Mark Pendleton is Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies in the School of East Asian Studies at University of Sheffield. He is an editor of the Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture and has published numerous chapters and articles in journals like Japan Forum and Japanese Studies.
      Mark Pendleton, Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield

    • Ascetic Ressentiment: Historical Consciousness and Mountain Politics in Northeastern Japan

      [Recorded 18th November 2020] In this talk, I will discuss competing streams of historical consciousness in Mount Haguro, a sacred mountain in northeastern Japan known for its mountain ascetic traditions. Applying the notion of ressentiment (historical alienation) to the longue dureé of religious history in Mount Haguro, I demonstrate how contemporary conflicts in the mountain ascetic community are rooted not only in a historic rift between Shintō and Buddhism in the early Meiji period, but in a greater dynamic at play in Japanese religious history between nativism and cosmopolitanism. Shayne A. P. Dahl received his PhD in Sociolinguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto in 2019. His doctoral research considered recent innovations of Shugendo (mountain asceticism) in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. In 2017, he produced an ethnographic film, The Buddha Mummies of North Japan, which explored the modern worship and significance of mummified monks in a sacred mountain range called Dewa Sanzan. He has published about post-disaster pilgrimage Dewa Sanzan and is currently writing book manuscript based on his doctoral fieldwork that will explore themes of religion, historical consciousness, and ecology in a post-disaster context.
      Shayne Dahl, Postdoctoral Researcher at McMaster University (Canada)

    • Still life: Scarecrow sociality, economic abandonment, and public curiosity in rural Japan

      [Recorded 4th November 2020] In Nagoro, in the middle of Shikoku, close to two hundred scarecrows stand in the farm fields where nothing but weeds now grow; they wait at the bus stop past which busses no longer run; and they sit in an elementary school devoid of human children. Day by day increasing numbers of visitors from urban centers of affluent countries are making the trek to this small town and its inanimate inhabitants. Reflexively following that curiosity, for the past five years I have visited this town, made scarecrows, spent time with long-term inhabitants of the valley, and talked to the tourists and reporters who come to see a fading rural life set against a seemingly natural backdrop of stunning beauty. In this paper, I argue that the economic conditions that enable the hyper-mobility of urban public curiosity are precisely those that push small villages such as this one to the verge of disappearance. A gendered, spatial, and temporal organization of labor and leisure, curiosity and possibility — all global in scope — condense here into the scarecrow. This talk was originally presented on 4th November, 2020. Joseph Hankins is Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Anthropology and Interim Director of Critical Gender Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His research examines the interplay of flow and capture – of goods, people, and political possibility. His first book followed raw cowhide from his hometown in Texas to a tannery in Japan, examining the gendered labor required to reproduce political arguments that Japan is multicultural. His talk is from his second book project on deurbanization and rural imaginaries.
      Joseph D. Hankins, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California San Diego

    • Producing People Who Have No One: Child Welfare and Well-Being in Japan

      [Recorded 21st October 2020] Child welfare and well-being are fragile kin to each other. Such is the case in Japan, where the ethnographic data for this paper originate, but also across the world, as policy makers, caregivers, and people with experience in state care endeavor to imagine—and implement—child welfare systems that truly support well-being. Despite these efforts, social welfare systems too often “produce people who have no one,” in the words of one of my interlocutors. Child welfare policy and practice institutionalize particular visions of kinship relationships, with lasting effects on the people touched by these systems. Some of these systems cultivate the possibility for lasting relationships, and some do not. Relationships can injure and harm, but they can also transform. What are the conditions for a welfare system that nurtures well-being, that produces people who have people? This paper explores how cultural norms surrounding kinship, many deeply connected to national ideologies of Japanese identity, play out when kinship realities diverge from normative expectations surrounding nurturance and care. Originally presented on 21st October, 2020. Kathryn E. Goldfarb is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Univeristy of Colorado Boulder. Kathryn earned her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2012 and has published widely on kinship, adoption and child welfare in Japan in journals such as Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Japanese Studies and Social Science and Medicine. She is currently preparing a book manuscript titled "Fragile Kinships: Child Welfare and Well Being in Japan"
      Kathryn E. Goldfarb, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder

    • Transnational Kinship in the Margins of Citizenship: The Case of Nikkei Brazilians in Japan

      [Recorded 14th October 2020] Kinship is a restrictive and yet mutable logic by which many nation-states in East Asia nationalize transnational mobility today. This talk elucidates the seemingly paradoxical but deeply systemic stratification of citizenship intensified by kinship-based migrations, by examining the case of Brazilians in contemporary Japan. At first glance, the kin-based incorporation connotes acceptance: “they” are “us.” Yet the partial inclusion grounded on the idiom of blood ironically preserves perpetual exclusion of those migrants who must seek belonging in a corporeal idiom of family. [NOTE: original presentation contained an 8min video in Porteugeuse with English Subtitles. This part has been edited from the audio pending permission from those involved in the video] Suma Ikeuchi is Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Her first book, "Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in the Brazilian Diaspora", was published by Stanford University Press in 2019.
      Suma Ikeuchi, Assistant Professor Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California Santa Barbara

    • Interaction between Ezra Pound and Japanese artists: mainly Yone Noguchi, a poet

      [Recorded 4 December 2019] Ezra Pound had meaningful interactions with his contemporary Japanese artists. This paper argues that his rivalry with Yone Noguchi, a poet who wrote hokku (Japanese traditional short poems) in English, was significant in his creation of an aesthetic based on hokku. Toru Nakamura is Professor of English and American Literature and Culture at Chuo University in Tokyo, Japan. He is currently a Visiting Scholar in Oxford’s Faculty of English, working on the interaction between early 20th century American (and English) writers and artists who belonged to Non-Western cultures. His main books include: Terminal Beginning: American Stories and the Power of Words [Terminal Beginning: Amerika no Monogatari to Kotoba no Chikara] (Editing and writing, Tokyo: Ronso sha, 2014); and Ernest Hemingway: Author’s Horizon from the 21st Century Perspective [Ernest Hemingway: Nijuisseiki kara Yomu Sakka no Chihei] (co-authored, Tokyo: Rinsen Book Co. 2011). His main translations include Henry Miller’s Book of Friends (co-translated, Suiseisha, 2014).
      Toru Nakamura (Oxford, UK, and Chuo, Japan)

    • “Making Something from Nothing”: Building a life in music from the margins of Japan

      [Recorded 20 November 2019] Based upon anthropological fieldwork conducted in the Koenji neighbourhood of Tokyo, I examine the lives of street-based amateur musicians newly arrived in the metropolis. In many cases, initial aspirations of progress give way to a realisation that the music industry is deaf to their efforts. They quickly slip into a pattern of irregular work, joining huge numbers of financially insecure and opportunity-poor young people. Prioritising music has put them on the margins of popular discourses of life trajectories in Japan, even though their lived experiences are commonplace to many. While scholarship on “precarity” and the reverberations of “gap society” is plentiful, much less attention has been given to how people respond to these circumstances. In this talk I explore how the musicians carve out new trajectories for themselves by readdressing the role that music plays in their lives, and how their music practices negotiate the space left by diminished hope. That a life in music can still exist despite odds stacked against it is, perhaps, indicative that young people are fast developing the skills and capacities to negotiate the vicissitudes of modern life.
      Robert Simpkins (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)

    • Inside, Outside, In-between: Elderly ex-offenders and the politics of exclusion

      [Recorded 6 November 2019] Following decades of low fertility and long average lifespans, Japan's aging society is currently undergoing a social and demographic transformation on a scale never before seen in human history. Concerns about the care of Japan's aging population has concentrated either on the provision of formal care services through the Long-Term Care Insurance system or on the support of unpaid family and community carers. But what about older people who fall through the social 'safety net' of care? For more and more older people, one consequence of the Japan's aging society has been an increased risk of going to prison, usually as a result of minor nonviolent property crimes. As the prison population ages, guards and fellow prisoners become care assistants, while facilities, daily routines, food, and even the architecture of prisons are all become adapted to the older body. In many ways, it appears that in the aging society, prisons become nursing homes. This talk examines the lifeworlds of older ex-offenders to try to learn how this deepening connection between prison and social welfare is reshaping what it means to grow old in today's Japan. In particular, I look at the temporality of the carceral condition, as reflected in the rhythm of re-offending that has emerged as an alternative to the isolation and alienation of aging in the community. Is this rhythm and repetition an echo of other patterns of care and the life course? Or is it best seen as the inescapable machine of governmentality? Or perhaps there is something in-between (間), a space suspended in contradictions of frailty and violence, connection and separation, in and out?
      Jason Danely (Oxford Brookes University)

    • Japanese Mermaid’s in Darwin’s West

      [Recorded 16 October 2019] In the mid-nineteenth century, showmen like P. T. Barnum were earning big money by displaying Japanese mummified mermaids to their British and US audiences. At the same time, naturalists were inspecting these specimens, trying to ascertain whether they were genuine, or what sorts of creatures they were composed of. Either way, these mummified mermaids made in Japan became part of the debates about the natural world order, taxonomy, and the theory of evolution. For centuries before that, it was common to include mermaids both in natural history books and books on monsters, alongside other mythical creatures. The material objects brought from Japan, exquisitely crafted, and presented with stories about the newly-discovered fertile exotic lands filled with hybrids and “missing links” such as platypus were bringing chaos into the natural history world that the ever-developing taxonomical systems such as Linnaeus’ were attempting to put back into order. This talk looks at the Japanese mummified mermaids (one can be found in the British Museum in London) and their role in the making of Darwin’s West and in the global scientific modernity by examining the material Japanese mermaid at the intersection of myth and popular culture and science and modernity in the Euro-American context.
      Mateja Kovacic (Nissan Institute, University of Oxford)

    • Kore-eda Hirokazu Mini-Symposium

      [Recorded 27 March 2019] Anticipating a major retrospective of Koreeda Hirokazu’s films at the British Film Insitute in London during April and May, this mini-symposium brings together two researchers currently working on the director’s cinema at British universities. In recent years, Koreeda Hirokazu has produced a series of dramas focusing on family relationships amid the changing social landscape of post-bubble Japan. Duncan Breeze, under the title ‘Three Ryōs’, will discuss three of Koreeda’s most personal narratives – Still Walking (2008), After the Storm (2015) and TV series Going my Home (2012) – in which he casts Abe Hiroshi as central protagonist ‘Ryōta’. Abe’s characters are unrelated to one another yet are consistently typified by their (often humorous) inability to fulfil social and familial expectations. The resulting alienation experienced by Abe's characters can be seen as emblematic of similar anxieties faced by many adult Japanese males who, following the declining strength of hegemonic gender identities, struggle to negotiate competing masculine discourses. This talk will explore Abe as a ‘man out of place’ in Koreeda’s cinema. Alexander Jacoby will discuss ‘the abnormal family’ in Koreeda’s recent Palme d’Or-winning film Shoplifters (2018) as a key example of the director’s representation of families that differ from the assumed norms of Japanese kinship structure and accepted conduct. These trends are brought to an extreme in Shoplifters, where the central “family” is both socially marginalised, making a living through crime, and structurally aberrant, consisting of a group of people who share a home but are not blood relatives. This talk will set the concerns of Shoplifters in the context of Koreeda’s central theme: the interrogation of what it really means to be part of a family.
      Alexander Jacoby (Oxford Brookes University) and Duncan Breeze (University of East Anglia, Norwich)