New ideas in East Asian Studies

Special Edition for 2017

Critique of/in Japanese Studies

Edited by Ioannis Gaitanidis

The papers in this special issue were selected among those presented at the British Association for Japanese Studies (Japan Branch) conference held in Chiba University on May 27 and 28, 2017. 

Click here for more information about the conference



Critique of/in Japanese Studies: an Introduction to the Special Edition

Ioannis Gaitanidis

Editor's Bio: Ioannis Gaitanidis is Assistant Professor at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Chiba University, Japan. His university education was entirely spent in Area Studies/Japanese Studies departments in the U.K., and his research interests lie primarily with contemporary discourse and practices at the intersections of religion and therapy in Japan. He has been responsible of developing a Japanese Studies curriculum at Chiba University since 2013. 


Recursions of Colonial Desire For Differences: The Doubly Erased and/or Hyper-visible Ainu

Roslynn Ang

Abstract: This paper examines the unruly ethnographic elements that haunt and threaten the coherence of our analytical categories on race and nation. Moving beyond a critique on the knowledge production of the Orient, I examine the structure and affect of scholarship that also works to produce the (settler) colonial histories of the West through Japan. Through my ethnographic encounters at an Ainu embroidery class, a Buddhist funeral of an Ainu elder, and with a researcher of Japanese kimono culture in Vienna, I explore the framings of “Japan” by unsettling the voyeuristic gaze of the observer with the illegibility of my Ainu interlocutors. I argue that this voyeuristic gaze sustains Ainu hyper-visibility and/or double erasure as they transit local and transnational scholarship on Japan to erase settler histories in Japan, Europe, and North America. 

Author’s bio: Roslynn is a Ph.D. candidate in East Asian Studies, New York University, and had received grants to Ryukyu University and Hokkaido University. With an extensive knowledge of Japan’s peripheries and indigenous minorities, her research focuses on contemporary Ainu performance groups, settler colonialism, and issues on race and nation in Japan.


What are you? Who am I? - "Border Crossing" and Other Issues in Working on Korea Under Japanese Rule

Juljan Biontino

Abstract: Having studied in his home country, Japan and Korea on Japanese and Korean history, especially Korea under Japanese rule, the author gives his personal insights based on his experiences in dealing with issues of Korean Modern history across disciplines and countries. Outlining his own research and activities in research collaborations, the author talks about varying perceptions and understandings of his work depending on the local context. Ultimately, the article tries to be a critique of the possibilities and limits of area studies in general. In conclusion, problems arise less from prejudice or misperceptions of the historical consciousness, but from the fact that scholarly culture is different and traditional academic fields such as history at least in East Asia tend to be more conservative than in Europe.

Author's Bio: Graduating from Japanese Studies at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, Juljan Biontino received Master program education at Tokyo Gakugei University and at his alma mater. After absolving a doctorate program in Korean History education at Seoul National University, he returned to Japan as Assistant Professor at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Chiba University. Main research interest is the history of the everyday in Korea under Japanese rule.


The Dialectic of Multiple Modernities in Japan

Roman Paşca

Abstract: In this essay, I discuss notions such as ‘multiple modernities’, ‘alternative modernities’, ‘entangled modernities’ etc. in the Japanese context. I suggest that in order to have a better understanding of modernity in Japan we need a new, more inclusive framework, open enough to accommodate the idea that modernity is not necessarily “made in and by the West”. I develop my argument in three steps. First, I make a brief overview of several understandings of modernity; secondly, I examine Latour’s (1991) proposition that “we have never been modern” and Bauman’s (2000) notion of ‘liquid modernity’; thirdly, I examine how these concepts might apply in the case of the Japanese experience of modernity. My conclusion is that modernity might be best understood as a fluid notion without a hard ‘core’, and that its relationship with tradition in Japan can be subscribed to a yin-and-yang-like dynamic interplay. 

Author’s Bio: Roman Paşca received his PhD from the University of Bucharest in Romania and is currently a Lecturer at the Research Institute for Japanese Studies at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. His research interests include Tokugawa intellectual history, the concept of Nature in Japanese philosophy, and philosophy in / as / of translation.


The Politics of Confucianism in Contemporary Japan

Alexandra Mustățea

Abstract: This paper explores the question of Confucianism’s legacy in contemporary Japan by focusing on a rather controversial theory advanced in 2016 by Kiri Paramore – that Confucianism and its values have become taboo in contemporary Japan following WW2, mainly due to its pre-war connection with fascist ideology and an intrinsic incompatibility with democratic principles. By addressing the three main arguments Paramore brings in support of his theory – the constant avoidance of the term Confucianism in the political and public intellectual sphere, society’s lack of involvement with Confucianism and Confucianism’s overall incompatibility with modernity and democracy – this paper questions whether we can really speak of a taboo-isation of Confucianism in contemporary Japan in such clear-cut terms, suggesting that the answer could be more complex in nature.

Author's Bio: Alexandra Mustățea, PhD, Tōyō University, Tokyo. My main field of research is Japanese intellectual history, with a focus on the development of Japanese Confucianism during the Tokugawa period, its influence on the evolution of bushidō as a modern identity discourse and its political and social legacy in contemporary Japan. 


Writing East Asia and Japan from Latin America: Literature, Nationalism and Critique in the Works of Enrique Gómez Carrillo

Facundo Garasino

Abstract: This paper aims to expand and diversify the cartographies of Japanese Studies into intellectual and literary encounters with Latin America, by focusing on the writings of literary critic and journalist Enrique Gómez Carrillo (1873-1927) on East Asia and Japan at the closing of the Russo-Japanese War (1905-1907). By analyzing Carrillo’s commentaries on Japan’s debates over the intellectual and cultural implications of the War, and his accounts on the political situation of East Asia, this paper demonstrates that Carrillo destabilized hierarchical constructions of the East-West divide through explorations of world literature. This will allow to introduce a novel framework for analyzing transnational intellectual production beyond binary divides. In doing so, this paper highlights the shared experiences of Japan and LatinAmerica in defining modern agencies, by exploring how subjects in a colonized intellectual space can challenge hegemonic structures from a position oscillating between hegemony and marginality, the West and the Rest. 

Author's Bio: Facundo Garasino is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Letters at Osaka University, and a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. His research focuses on the transnational history of the intellectual, migratory, and literary connections between modern Japan and Latin America. 


The Right to Misunderstand Japanese Cinema: Tsurumi Shunsuke, Imamura Taihei and Muthu, the Dancing Maharaja

Rea Amit

Abstract: This paper argues for a possible theorisation of the Japanese film world (nihon eiga kai) that can include non-Japanese films, or films produced in countries other than Japan. As a case study, the paper refers to the short-lived craze in Japan around the south-Indian film, Muthu (or Mutu: The Dancing Maharaja, as it is known in Japan). For a theoretical framework, the paper brings together sources that might seem worlds apart: A theory on film, and another on aesthetics by renowned philosopher and cultural critic, Tsurumi Shunsuke, who published these works in the first decades after World War II, as well as a lesser-known thesis on Japanese tradition, art, and film by film theorist Imamura Taihei that has been published in segments during the war.

Author's Bio: Rea Amit is Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Illinois College. He has published in Philosophy East and West, Participations, and another essay in positions:asia critique is forthcoming.He is currently writing a book on televisuality in postwar Japanese cinema.


Critique in Early Japan: Ishinpō as a Case Study on How to Read a Text

M. A. Mujeeb Khan

Abstract: Early Japan’s appropriation of the continental medical literary tradition provides an important study of critique. Analysis of critique in Japan and Japanese culture in disciplinary studies and larger comparative projects often finds itself prone to inadvertent misappropriation of the past. This article attempts to provide a framework of issues faced in the interpretation of historical texts through a focus on Ishinpō, Japan’s earliest extant medical work. Despite having been compiled by Tanba no Yasuyori (d. 995), Ishinpō tends to be defined in scholarship by its Japaneseness rather than as a product of Yasuyori’s intellectual project or as an example of development in the medical tradition. Therefore, this article considers Ishinpō as a case study of early Japan to examine how the text represents a form of active critique present during the construction of Japan’s nascent medical literary tradition while also problematizing the essentializations of Japan encountered when historically situating Japan. 

Author's Bio: Mujeeb is a historian of medicine and Asia based at the University of Tokyo. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, prior to which he received master’s degrees from the University of Tokyo and Harvard. He primarily researches the medieval history of the Islamic and Sinitic (Sino-Korean-Japan) worlds. 


Mapping Imagined Boundaries: Researching Linguistic and Spatial Practices of Othering at a Japanese University Campus

Satoko Shao-Kobayashi

Abstract: With issues of multivocality and multilocality in mind, this study examines othering and the production of borders between regularly-enrolled and international exchange (IE) students on a university campus in Japan. I employed multiple mediums to represent participants’ spatial and linguistic practices of identifying "us" and "them" mapping their cognitive and activity boundaries using participant observation, interviews, mental maps, GPS tracking, and conversation data. The analysis revealed the match of the territorial limitation and imagined marginalization of IE students, in contrast to the diverse mental images of and selective movement on the campus by regularly-enrolled students. The notion and daily practices by these students implicitly and explicitly created a border between "us" and "them." Moreover, by piloting some of the critical approaches to understanding the institutionalization of otherness, this small case study showed a possible approach to the realization of a collaborative learning environment among diverse students.

Author's Bio: Satoko Shao-Kobayashi is Assistant Professor at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Chiba University (Japan). She earned her Ph.D. in Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests include race/ethnic relations among transnational adolescents, linguistic/spatial practices, collaborative learning and qualitative research methodologies.


Viewing Violent Extremism Through the Lens of Industrial Policy: Government's Role in Managing Faith

Hilary Dauer

Abstract: By proposing to eradicate its root causes, countering violent extremism (CVE) has dominated recent discussions about terrorism.  Yet, as the environment around terrorism is so politically and morally charged, it would make sense to look at other types of analyses to provide a structure for analyzing the way governments – especially in the Muslim world – approach religion.  The work of Chalmers Johnson on industrial policy could form the basis of one such approach. As the Japanese Ministry of Industry and Trade “intervened” in the free market, Ministries of Religious Affairs in the Muslim world involve themselves in market place of faith where they pick winners.  Viewing religion as a public good such as economic development could shed light on not only the mechanics of religious policy but also on the consequences. 

Author's Bio: Hilary is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department currently posted to Okinawa, Japan.  In 2016-17, he was a Baker-Kato fellow at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.  Hilary has also served in the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia, specializing in security, counterterrorism, human rights, Islam, and civil society.