NEAC Distinguished Speakers Bureau — Japan Speakers

Julie Nelson Davis

Julie Nelson Davis

April 1, 2021-March 31, 2024
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Julie Nelson Davis is Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches modern East Asian art from 1600 to the present. Her research focuses on ukiyo-e, the “pictures of the floating world,” the vibrant prints, paintings, and illustrated books celebrating and advertising the trends, entertainments, and occupations of early modern Japan. Davis is the author of Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty (2007, second edition 2021), Partners in Print: Artistic Collaboration and the Ukiyo-e Market (2015), and Picturing the Floating World: Ukiyo-e in Context (forthcoming 2021). She is currently working on two new projects: one on imitation, homage, and fakery in early modern Japanese art and the second on Hokusai as a book illustrator. Davis was also guest curator for the Freer and Sackler Galleries for an exhibition on Utamaro (2017) and is preparing an exhibition of Japanese illustrated books at the University of Pennsylvania. Davis also editor-in-chief for and the past president of the Japan Art History Forum (2014-2020).

Please note that for on-campus visits, Professor Davis would also be available to look with students and faculty at local collections of Japanese artworks and illustrated books.

Presentations Offered by Professor Davis:

Reappraising Beauty for the Past and the Present: An Utamaro Case Study

In one of the most famous early modern illustrated books, the Annual Events of the ‘Azure Towers,’ Illustrated (Seirō ehon) Nenjū gyōji, from 1804, artist Kitagawa Utamaro and writer Jippensha Ikku described the festivals and customs that marked the annual calendar for the licensed prostitution district, the Yoshiwara, in the city of Edo. Now regarded as one of the most beautiful books of its time, it has been often described as a kind of insiders’ view into the secret life of the quarter, as though documentary in intent. In this presentation, I overturn that reading and address how the book served to promote the district, arguing that we now, more than ever, we need to put this book, along with other images of “beauties,” into a critical dialogue with their social and historical contexts. Taking up some of the issues addressed by the #metoo movement, this talk further addresses ways to think more critically about the role of art history, literary studies, and Japanese studies in colonialist narratives extending into the present.

The Ghost in the Brush: Mastery, Genius, and the Artist Katsushika Ōi

Katsushika Ōi (ca. 1800-1860) was regarded in her lifetime as an exceptional artist. Her famous father, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), wrote that her pictures of beautiful women were better than his own, while another contemporary artist commented that she had made a “reputation as a talented painter.” Yet only some dozen paintings and a few illustrated books bear her signature as work of her own. Given her reputation, why are there so few works remaining from the hand of Ōi? This talk reconsiders Ōi’s career, style, and legacy in the context of Katsushika house style, arguing that positing “late Hokusai” as a singular genius leaves out the potential for Ōi’s contribution as a “ghost brush.” How this upholds false narratives (where the brush of mastery is singular as well male) is shown as a means of producing another kind of “ghost,” one where workshop practice and collaboration have been vanished in the construction of Hokusai in the Meiji period, when the history of Japanese art was rewritten for reception abroad as well as for profit. How Ōi’s life and work has recently been the subject of the manga series and anime Miss Hokusai (Sarusuberi, 2015) and the novel The Printmaker’s Daughter (2011) will also be discussed.

The Art World of Ukiyo-e: The “Pictures of the Floating World” in Context

Ukiyo-e, the “pictures of the floating world,” are regarded today as masterpieces, with these prints and books among the most iconic (and expensive) in Japanese art. Yet it is often said that ukiyo-e was not appreciated in its home country in its own time, rather that it was when prints and books arrived in France accidentally—as packing material for ceramics—that they were given due credit. In this talk, I debunk the myth of ukiyo-e being so little valued that it was used for packing and wrapping, demonstrating that ukiyo-e was thoroughly appreciated as a field of artistic production, worthy of connoisseurship and even of canonization in its own time. By putting these images back into their dynamic context, we can reconstruct a vibrant, multilayered art world of consumers and makers, where prints, books, and paintings were bought, sold, valued, collected, and discussed. Some were made for a commercial market, backed by savvy entrepreneurs seeking out new ways to make a profit, while others were produced for private coteries and high-ranking individuals seeking cultural capital. As a genre under construction in its own time, these images were part of an art world under active negotiation.

Julie Nelson Davis currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in her term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023

3 engagements between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024

Alexis Dudden

April 1, 2019-March 31, 2022
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Alexis Dudden is professor of history at the University of Connecticut. She publishes regularly about Japan and Northeast Asia, and her books include Troubled Apologies among Japan, Korea, and the United States (Columbia, 2008) and Japan’s Colonization of Korea (Hawaii, 2005). She is currently completing a book about Japan’s territorial contests with regional neighbors tentatively called, The Opening and Closing of Japan, 1850-2020, and is an advisory council member of Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies’ Research Project on Constitutional Revision.

Presentations Offered by Professor Dudden:

Above and Below the Waterline: The East China Sea in Japan’s Modern History

This talk examines the modern oceanic history of the East China Sea through various legal structures that have attempted to govern it between 1850 and the present. At once the progressive attempts to control the East China Sea through international legal regimes bring into relief competing notions of sovereignty as well as the radical transformation of the ocean itself in law. The paper’s discussion pivots on three discrete but intersecting examples: the Robert Bowne mutiny (1852), the American invasion of Okinawa (1945), and the contemporary island dispute among Japan, China, and Taiwan. Noticeably, political attempts to control this area’s modern history have brought its countless histories onto a collision course with current law in ways that ironically only underscore the inherent fluidity of the sea.

A Sea with No Name: The Troubled Waters of East Asia

A decades-long naming dispute at the International Hydrographic Organization centers on the body of water that straddles 40 degrees north latitude and rests between 130 and 140 degrees east longitude. Oceanographers refer to this sea as one of the northern Pacific Ocean’s “marginal seas,” and depending where you stand along its spiky coastline, its deep blue hues are variously known as the “Sea of Japan,” “Korea’s East Sea,” or simply the “East Sea.” My talk will not advocate one name over another, but will instead examine various moments in this sea’s history to underscore areas of regional encounter that inform the troubled present.

Korea and a Divided Japan

The reality and idea of Korea — South and North — have increasingly become a necessary foil to Japanese debates over the meaning of Japan. With Japanese society profoundly divided over the course of its future, debates concerning the nation’s legal redefinition of its military are at the center of the conversation, and security concerns over North Korea’s behavior and future weigh heavily in the mix. Additional rifts over questions about the emperor’s role and the reach of the state, for example, also often reference Korea — at least the idea of Korea and Koreans — in their discussion. This talk addresses present realities, real histories, and the use of Korea in Japan today.

Alexis Dudden currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in her term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

Richard Jaffe

April 1, 2020-March 31, 2023
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Richard M. Jaffe is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute at Duke University. A specialist in the study of Buddhism in early modern and modern Japan, Jaffe is author of Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism (2001) and Seeking Śākyamuni: South Asian in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism (2019). In addition, Jaffe is the general editor of the four-volume Selected Works of D. T. Suzuki as well as the volume editor of the Zen volume in that series. Jaffe currently is working on a biography of D. T. Suzuki, one of the most influential twentieth-century figures involved in the globalization of Zen Buddhism.

Presentations offered by Professor Jaffe:

Japanese Buddhism’s Western Turn: Japan-South Asia Exchange and the Creation of Modern Japanese Buddhism

Scholars have long portrayed the construction of twentieth-century Buddhism in Japan as a result of changes forced upon or willfully adopted by Japanese Buddhists as a result of ever more frequent contacts with the “West,” that is, the United States and Europe. The intellectual, scholarly, and religious exchanges that reshaped the Japanese Buddhist world from the late-nineteenth and first half of the twentieth-centuries, thus largely have been understood as overwhelmingly bipolar ones. The received narrative describing the numerous changes in modern Japanese Buddhism as a product of “Westernization,” however, overlooks almost completely the role played by cultural flows between Japan and Asia, especially South and Southeast Asia, in catalyzing the reconceptualization of Japanese Buddhism as a pan-Asian and, even, global, tradition. South and Southeast Asia served as crucial contact zones for Asian Buddhists.

During the Meiji, Taishō, and early Shōwa eras Japanese Buddhists traveled along the new “Cotton Road” living, practicing, and studying in such entrepôts as Bangkok, Benares, Bombay, Calcutta, Chittagong, Lhasa, and Rangoon. There the travelers encountered Buddhists and Buddhist sympathizers from around the world, exchanging practices, texts, ideas, and material cultural objects. Returning to Japan in the wake of these Asian encounters, Japanese Buddhists were stimulated to reshape numerous facets of their tradition, including sectarian scholarship, the practice of the precepts, and Buddhist material culture. In this presentation, I analyze the various ramifications of the encounters with South and Southeast Asian Buddhism for Japanese Buddhists.

D. T. Suzuki, American Philanthropy, and the Globalization of Zen in the Twentieth Century

Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki (1870–1966) was one of the me most important scholars and popularizers of Zen Buddhism outside of Japan during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Through his writings and his lectures, Suzuki explained Zen to audiences around the world, creating an image of the tradition that placed it at the heart of much of Japanese traditional culture. For much of the twentieth century, Suzuki was one of the most recognizable faces of Buddhism globally. His influence extended to a wide range of intellectuals, writers, and artists, including John Cage, Leonora Carrington, Erich Fromm, Allen Ginsberg, Karen Horney, Christmas Humphreys, Ibram Lassaw, Agnes Martin, Thomas Merton, and J. D. Salinger.

In assessing D. T. Suzuki’s career, it is tempting to base much of our work on the massive quantity of materials in his corpus, which includes a forty-volume collected works, as well as a mountain of articles, books, diaries, letters, and recordings that D. T. Suzuki left behind over the course of his long lifetime. As I argue in this lecture, however, although we cannot discount the great importance of Suzuki’s own intention, energy, and plans, the forces of global capitalism, global cultural flows, and, of equal importance, an element of serendipity, were important in determining the direction of Suzuki’s work and the way he chose to present Buddhism inside and outside Japan. As the United States emerged victorious in the wake of two world wars, American philanthropists used their wealth at home and abroad to promote those religious leaders seen as harmonious with their vision for the new American century.

Using hundreds of documents from multiple archives, including dozens of letters and reports by Suzuki that have previously not been utilized for research, I sketch the broad contours of Suzuki’s global travels and overseas lecture tours from the 1930s until the mid-1960s. The documents under consideration reveal how members of the wealthy donor class sought to advance their own vision for cultural, social, and religious change by funding not only Suzuki’s work but also that of other Japanese religious leaders. They also frankly record how a select group of Suzuki’s audience in the United States reacted to his message. Suzuki, of course, used donations from wealthy patrons and founders to further his own goals, but the intentions of the funders also shaped Suzuki’s trajectory by bringing him to new venues, introducing him to scholars and religious leaders outside of his usual circle, and forcing him to adjust and clarify the nature of his writing projects. Thus, Suzuki, while using this support to further his own agenda, also found himself nudged into new intellectual arenas and encouraged to calibrate his efforts to their requests

D. T. Suzuki’s 1952 Columbia University Zen Lectures and the New York Intelligentsia

From the spring semester, 1952 until the summer of 1957, Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki (1870–1966) served as a lecturer in Chinese and, subsequently, Religion, at Columbia University. As one of the foremost voices catalyzing the global spread of Zen Buddhism from Japan, Suzuki’s seminar lectures drew not only members of the Columbia University community but the general public as well. Among those who attended these seminar lectures were such members of the New York intelligentsia and artistic community as John Cage, Arthur Danto, Philip Guston, Abraham Kaplan, Ibram Lassaw, Agnes Martin, and Thomas Merton. By 1957, Suzuki had become prominent enough in the New York intellectual world to draw an extensive profile, “Great Simplicity,” in the New Yorker. One attendee at the seminars, philosopher and art critic, Arthur Danto, considered the seminars a crystallizing intellectual moment comparable in influence to Alexandre Kojève’s lectures on Hegel in post-World War II Paris.

In this presentation, I delve into Suzuki’s arrival in New York as well as his growing network of influence through his numerous lectures at Columbia and other prominent U.S. universities. In the course of the lecture I examine Suzuki’s influence on the aforementioned artists, writers, and intellectuals who attended the talks. In addition, I will speak in detail about the Suzuki’s seminar talks, which contain detailed discussions of Suzuki’s interpretation of the Zen Buddhist understanding of consciousness, compassion, and such classic Buddhist texts as the “Flower Garland Sutra” and the “Treatise on the Awakening of Faith According to the Mahayana.” These lectures comprise one of Suzuki’s last extensive, detailed statements of his interpretation of Zen and, more broadly, Buddhism. As such the Columbia seminar presentations stand as the culmination of his close to sixty-five year career writing about Buddhism.

Richard M. Jaffe currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities available in his term on the NEAC DSB:

2 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

2 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31 2023

Laura Miller

April 1, 2019-March 31, 2022
Available for In-Person events*
*Pending on DSB speaker availability and campus restrictions

Laura Miller is Ei’ichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies and Professor of History at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as an internationally prominent scholar of Japan Studies, cultural history, and linguistic anthropology. She has been active as a leader in many professional organizations, including her elected roles as the President of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs (2018 to 2019), Northeast Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies (2007 to 2010), and President of the Society for East Asian Anthropology, American Anthropological Association (2003 to 2005). She has published more than seventy articles and book chapters on Japanese culture and language. Her article, “Those naughty teenage girls: Japanese Kogals, slang, and media assessments,” published in 2004 in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, has been one of the most frequently accessed articles in the American Anthropological Association’s AnthroSource portal history. Her books include Diva Nation: Female Icons from Japanese Cultural History (University of California Press, 2018, co-edited with Rebecca Copeland), Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan (Stanford University Press, 2013, co-edited with Alisa Freedman and Christine Yano), Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power, and Etiquette in Japan (University of California Press, 2011, co-edited with Jan Bardsley), Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press. 2006), and Bad Girls of Japan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, co-edited with Jan Bardsley). Miller received B.A. degrees in Asian Studies and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1977, an M.A. degree in Anthropology from UCLA in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA in 1988.

Presentations offered by Professor Miller:

Beyond Cute: The Serious Work of Kawaii in Contemporary Japan

From the adorable Kumamon mascot to the hard rock band Baby Metal, the world adores Japan’s unique aesthetic of kawaii (cute). When most people think about kawaii, they imagine the fluffy, frilly, and frivolous. Yet the cute aesthetic has spread beyond expected domains into politics, conduct literature, history textbooks, and elsewhere. Japanese cute can also extend beyond the saccharine, encompassing the weird or disturbing. The kawaii aesthetic serves legitimate and important social and cultural functions. It is a clever way to do the work of informing us, admonishing us, and convincing us. It provides an outlet for creativity and humor. From signs cautioning riders to watch the closing of doors on trains, to posters in medical clinics, cute pleasantly reprimands, warns, and guides. This presentation will take us beyond the expected forms of kawaii to a spectrum of cute and grotesque cute (guro kawaii) found in school textbooks, public service posters, and religious artifacts, emphasizing the critical role of this aesthetic in contemporary society.

Historically Hot: Reimagining Beauty from Japan’s Past

Who was considered to be a beautiful man or a gorgeous woman in Japan’s ancient period? What did an attractive Edo samurai or courtesan look like? When contemporary popular culture producers set out to create manga, anime, film, and TV series set in historical eras, they often find that the beauty standards of long ago are quite different from contemporary reader and viewer standards. Rather than try to represent historically accurate appearance, artists and writers meld some aspects of historic fashion with recent ideals for body and facial types. This presentation will feature several reimagined historical figures who are represented by actors, cosplayers, or drawn characters who reflect today’s beauty ideology rather than those of the periods they are portraying. Although some efforts are made to depict the costumes and hairstyles of the period, the desire to cater to current beauty norms dominates these productions.

Reinventing Himiko: Japan’s Ancient Queen Rules the Twenty-First Century

The first named person in Japanese history is Himiko, a third century ruler described only briefly by Chinese historians. In contemporary culture Himiko is cast in many roles: an elder priestess, an adorable shrine attendant, a vain dictator, or a lascivious sorceress. Himiko is also commodified and objectified in local communities as a touchstone for local commerce and community character. She is a rich resource for regional groups in need of a city mascot, beauty contest theme, or touristic motif. She is often found in advertising that links her to healthy native cuisine and food items. Himiko has also been adopted by feminists and New Age spiritualists, where she denotes ethnic spirituality and female rulership. This talk explores these many reinventions of Himiko in order to track how her varied iconography encodes assumptions about gender, power, and supernatural expertise.

Jennifer Robertson

Jennifer Robertson

April 1, 2021-March 31, 2024
Available for recorded or live virtual events, webinars, or In-Person events*
*Pending on DSB speaker availability and campus restrictions

Jennifer Robertson is Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and the History of Art, and the Penny W. School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She now resides in Seattle, and is Affiliate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Japan Studies, University of Washington, Seattle. Robertson earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University in 1985, where she also earned a B.A. in the History of Art in 1975. She works primarily in/on Japan where she has lived for over two decades. Robertson is the originator and General Editor of COLONIALISMS, a (now closed) book series on non-Western colonialisms from the University of California Press. The author of Native and Newcomer: Making and Remaking a Japanese City (1991, 1994, 2000), Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (1998,1999, 2001), and Odoru teikokushugi: Takarazuka o meguru sekushuaru poriteikusu to taishūbunka (2000), Robertson’s seven books and over eighty articles and chapters address a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from the 17th century to the present. Robertson is currently researching, writing, and editing articles on the cultural history of Japanese eugenics; art, science, and technology; sex-gender systems; and human-robot interfaces in Japan and elsewhere. Her newest book is Robo sapiens japanicus:  Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation (University of California Press, 2018) and a monograph on popular eugenics in Japan is in progress. Robertson’s CV, pdfs of articles, and other information can be accessed at:

Presentations Offered by Professor Robertson:

Robo-Sexism: Gendering AI and Robots in Japan and Beyond

In humans and humanoid robots alike, gender—femininity, masculinity—constitutes an array of learned behaviors that are cosmetically enabled and enhanced. These behaviors are both socially and historically shaped, and are also contingent upon many situational influences, including individual choices. I will explore the sex/gender dynamics informing the design and embodiment of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, especially humanoids and androids. Although my focus is on Japanese robotics, I will make some comparisons with the design of humanoid robots in the United States. In Japan, the state has advocated for the robotization of the labor force and human-robot coexistence. Child- and elder-care robots are imagined as liberating (married) women from domestic chores so they can pursue a career outside the home. However, as I show, advanced technology does not necessarily promote social progress and can be deployed to reinforce conservative models of sex/gender roles, ethnic nationalism, and “traditional” family structures.

Robot Thespians in Japan: Staging Science Fiction Futures

Despite the worldwide success in the early 20th century of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (1920), the theatre, unlike cinema (including animation), has not been actively utilized as a stage for science fiction scenarios exploring human-robot interactions and coexistence. Films featuring robot protagonists have proliferated since Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and prose science fiction has proved to be more adaptable as film and animation than as theatre. I explore the interface of humanoid robotics, science fiction, and robot theatre in Japan. A description of a robot comedy staged by the all-female Takarazuka Revue in 1932 is followed by a discussion of the Japanese translation and production of R.U.R. in 1924. I, Worker, a play produced as part of the Robot Theatre (robotto engeki) project inaugurated in 2006 by playwright Hirata Oriza and roboticist Ishiguro Hiroshi, is discussed and the capabilities of its gendered robot thespians described. I will assess the didactic role of robot theatre as a genre of science fiction in exploring and interrogating the human-robot interactions.

Cyborg Able-ism: Critical Insights from the Not So “Uncanny Valley” of Japan

I explore and interrogate the development and application in Japan—with cross-cultural comparisons—of robotic prostheses that effectively transform disabled persons into cyborgs, a condition I refer to as “cyborg-ableism.” Included here is a critical reassessment of the so-called theory of the “uncanny valley” (bukimi no tani). In Japan, wearable robotic devices proceed from and depend on a corporeal aesthetics of the gotai (the intact body). Thus, the type of human body that is privileged in the discourse of machine-enhanced mobility is examined. I also discuss the modes of sociality that robotic devices and prosthetics are imagined as recuperating. Apropos 2021, Japanese preparations for the Paralympics are reviewed.

Robot Rights vs. Human Rights: Forecasts from Japan

Japan continues to be in the vanguard of human-robot communication, and since 2007, the state has actively promoted the virtues of a robot-dependent society and lifestyle. As their population continues to shrink and age faster than in other post-industrial nation-states, Japanese are banking on the robotics industry to reinvigorate the economy and to preserve the country’s alleged ethnic homogeneity. These initiatives are paralleled by a growing support among some roboticists and politicians to confer citizenship to robots. The Japanese state has a problematic record on human rights, especially toward ethnic minorities and non-Japanese residents who have lived and worked in Japan for many generations. The possibility of robots acquiring civil status ahead of flesh-and-blood humans raises profound questions about the nature of citizenship and human rights. What does the pursuit in Japan of the “coexistence” of humans and robots forecast about new approaches to and configurations of civil society there and in other techno-states?

“Blood” is a Many-Splendored Thing: Eugenics, Nationality, and Citizenship in Japan

In Japan, citizenship is based on the principle of jus sanguinis. Naturalized citizenship is a possibility, but there is a tacit understanding at large that really real, or “pure,” Japaneseness is qualified (and circumscribed) by “blood” (chi, ketsu). Blood, in this sense, is understood as an active agent responsible for catalyzing an ethos, or a national-cultural identity. For many Japanese today, blood is understood in terms of blood-type, which, despite its controversial serological history, prevails as a popular mode of horoscopy, matchmaking, and personality analysis. I interrogate the compelling fiction of something called “Japanese blood,” a multi-authored “hemato-narrative” that has been nurtured and sustained for over a century. To this end, I assemble comprehensive account of the constructive and deconstructive aspects of blood and blood-type that considers the cuteness industry, eugenics, blood donation, and national identity.

Edible Eugenics: Dietary Reform and Nation-building in Modern Japan

Today, advertisements for health foods and energy drinks are ubiquitous in Japan, and appear on billboards, in magazines, and on television and radio. Japanese companies, like Calpis and Yakult, founded in the early twentieth century, are among the biggest producers in the world of functional foods and nutraceuticals. Japanese consumers constitute the largest Asian market for these products. I investigate how the origin of the health foods industry in history is linked to positive eugenics, which combined dietary reforms and outdoor exercises in growing and strengthening the population of Imperial Japan.

Michael Sharpe

August 26, 2020-August 25, 2023
Available for live virtual lectures and classroom visits

Michael Orlando Sharpe is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at York College of the City University of New York and an Adjunct Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Dr. Sharpe’s areas of expertise are comparative politics and international relations and his research interests concern looking comparatively at the politics of migration, immigrant political incorporation, and political transnationalism in the Netherlands, Japan, and around the world. His first book, entitled Postcolonial Citizens and Ethnic Migration: The Netherlands and Japan in the Age of Globalization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), provides a cross-regional investigation of the role of citizenship and ethnicity in migration, exploring the political realities of Dutch Antilleans in the Netherlands and Latin American Nikkeijin in Japan. Some of his work has appeared in the scholarly peer reviewed journals Ethnopolitics, International Relations of the Asia- Pacific, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Policy and Society, Dialectical Anthropology, encyclopedias, and popular media. His current research concerns the politics of remigration or the paid voluntary return of migrants and their families (“pay to go schemes”) and implicit boundary making in liberal democracies. He is interested in the role of racism in political processes. Dr. Sharpe has been a Mansfield Foundation and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program Scholar.

Presentations Offered by Professor Sharpe:

Calling the Nation Home and Contesting National Membership: The Political Incorporation of Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese Descendants) in Japan 1990-2008

This attempts to explain the limited political incorporation of Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese descendants) (LAN) in Japan 1990-2008. The 1990 Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act reform provides Nikkeijin a renewable visa that has enabled some 300,000 LAN to emigrate to Japan on the basis of Japanese blood descent or ethnicity. Long term marginalized minority groups such as Zainichi Koreans and Chinese are comparatively better incorporated in Japan’s political system and their demands increasingly recognized as more legitimate. I argue Japan’s changing ethnic citizenship regime, political opportunity structure, and structure of civil society combined with LAN language difficulties, newness of residence, small size, low minority status, and powerful myth of return limits their immigrant political incorporation in Japan. Additionally, the paper discusses the 2009 Kikoku Shien Jigyo (Help Return Program) to repatriate unemployed Latin American Nikkeijin to their country of origin. The lecture will present evidence that indicate a move towards a halting (de-ethnicization) (easing access for all immigrants) in Japan.

Is Japan Becoming a Country of Immigration?: Litmus Test for Liberal Democracy

There is growing debate around whether or not Japan will become a country of immigration. Japan is one of the few liberal democracies in the world to have successfully resisted immigration in its postwar economy. However, in the last twenty years, immigration in Japan has increased substantially with various side doors for unskilled labor as well as official entry points for skilled labor with options for fast tracked permanent residency. In 2018, Prime Minister Abe proposed some 500,000 unskilled workers by 2025 to fill jobs in industries with labor shortages while at the same time declaring that this is not an immigration policy. In the face of ageing population and low birthrate, Japan finds itself at a crossroads of whether, how, and when to accept the increasing reality of immigration as a solution to its demographic decline and labor shortage. Will Japan go the way of Western liberal democracies or in the direction of illiberal autocracies such as Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates? Japan is a very well organized and disciplined society that has reinvented itself multiple times and been at the forefront of several important postwar innovations. With an ageing population and demographic decline, Japan has a de facto immigration policy that is inevitably expanding, even as it refuses to call itself a country of immigration. Depending on how immigration is framed, managed, and rights are realized in Japan, the country could become a model of acceptance and democratic inclusion or an exemplar of illiberal intolerance and exclusion for the region and the world. The lecture will explore the way in which immigration in Japan can serve as a litmus test for the direction of its liberal democracy.

The Myth of Homogeneity and the Realities of Racism in Japan

Japan is not homogeneous, and racism there and in other East Asian countries is just as pronounced as in the West but manifests itself a bit differently. Japan has just about always had indigenous Ainu, Okinawans, and the Burakumin (outcaste) minority traces its origin to well before the 17 century early Edo era. Like Germany, Japan is a “late developer,” meaning it forms its modern state with the late 19th century Meiji Restoration from a disparate populace and promotion of a common ethnically homogeneous nationalism. With the promotion of Japanese empire, there was expansion via colonialism into Asia where racism and ethnic hierarchy was readily used. This was in fact a multiethnic empire that strived to colonize with the Japanese at the top of the hierarchy and the denigration of other Asians peoples as backwards and inferior. The Zainichi Korean and Chinese minorities have their origins in Japan in the colonial period and continue to face systemic racism. With Japan’s defeat of WWII and end of empire and the signing of the 1954 San Francisco Peace Treaty there is the loss of Japanese nationality for former colonial subjects, the “unmixing of Japan” and one again the embrace of Japanese homogeneity with strict border controls promoted by both Japanese and U.S. authorities as a way to control the perceived communist threat from nearby Korea and China and their foreign residents in Japan. Racism against visible foreigners in contemporary Japan often takes the form of country of origin and level of development. For these reasons, some argue that white Americans and white Europeans are at the top of the food chain of visible foreigners with Africans and South Asians towards the bottom. In 2017 the Japanese government released the results of its first national survey on racial and ethnic discrimination with reports that include employment discrimination, racist taunts, discriminatory speech, Japanese only recruitment, and denial of rental applications. Racism in Japan is often presented as a problem emblematic of heterogeneous Western societies. This lecture will explore the myth of homogeneity and the ways in which it belies and informs the realities of racism in contemporary Japan.

Satoko Shimazaki

May 1, 2019-March 31, 2022

Satoko Shimazaki is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on early modern Japanese theater and popular literature; the modern history of kabuki; gender representation on the kabuki stage; and the interaction of performance, print, and text. She is the author of Edo Kabuki in Transition: From the Worlds of the Samurai to the Vengeful Female Ghost (Columbia University Press, 2016), which was awarded the John Whitney Hall Book Prize and honorable mention for the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theater History. She also has a joint appointment as associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Presentations Offered by Professor Shimazaki:

Going to the Theater in Early Modern Japan: Kabuki on Stage and in Print

The all-male kabuki theater, whose origins can be traced back more than four hundred years, remains to this day Japan’s most popular form of theater. A unique performance genre that developed in conjunction with lavish ukiyo-e prints and other products of early modern Japan’s booming print culture, kabuki has left a profound mark on Japan’s cultural memory, creating urban heroes, legendary figures, iconic courtesans, and horrifying female ghosts. This lecture will give a user-friendly introduction to the early modern experience of theatergoing, and to the aesthetics of kabuki both on stage and in print. Particular attention will be given to the iconic ghost play Ghost Stories at Yotsuya (Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan, 1825), which first thrilled audiences in the early nineteenth century and remains one of the most popular kabuki plays of all time.

Stage Body, Stage Gender: Kabuki Actors and Print Identity in Early Modern Japan

This talk explores the star system that emerged in the context of early modern kabuki theater, focusing in particular on kabuki female-role actors, or onnagata. I propose a revision of established critical discourse about these actors, in which their acting and identities have been framed as an almost perfect instantiation of the performativity of gender. Focusing both on the kabuki theatre itself and on its discursive figuration in lavishly illustrated woodblock media, I suggest that the theater manipulated the viewer into regarding actors in ways that generated new bodily knowledge, and often rendered the actors’ real-life gender and sex irrelevant. Commercial printing created, for instance, “afterimages” of female-role actors that circulated posthumously in their absence, and formed bodies that could only be understood in the context of a historical genealogy of other female-role actors. As part of this process, kabuki theater and the print culture that grew up around it generated distinct “stage genders” that played an important role in shaping and embodying ideas of body, sex and sexuality, and desire in early modern Japan.

Making Voices, Creating Silence: Woodblock Print as Auditory Technology

In early nineteenth century Japan, before the advent of recorded sound and images, music and famous lines from the stage circulated widely in woodblock print. While Edo kabuki playscripts were often kept in house, what we might call “practice books” including famous lines, often with pictures of the faces of the actors who spoke them and notations about their vocal styles, were marketed for reading and amateur imitation. Toward the end of the early modern period, performance—ranging from kabuki theater to popular songs and street shows—played an instrumental role in organizing the visual and auditory properties of early modern prose fiction, especially popular genres of illustrated fiction. In this talk, I examine soundscapes relating to the kabuki theater and other performative genres that were called up through both the text and the pictures in popular illustrated fiction, showing how they contributed to the construction of a sort of virtual experience of the theater, and how they demanded an auditory register for textual consumption. This talk is an attempt to bring print culture into communication with modern technologies of sound recording.

Satoko Shimazaki currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in her term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between May 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

Amy Stanley

April 1, 2020-March 31, 2023
Available for recorded lectures with virtual class visits

Amy Stanley is an associate professor in the History Department at Northwestern University, where she teaches Japanese and early modern global history. Her publications include Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2012) and articles in The American Historical Review, The Journal of Asian Studies, and The Journal of Japanese Studies. She is particularly interested in the intersection of gender history and global history, and in the problems and possibilities of narrative history. Her book, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her Worlds, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2020.

Presentations Offered by Professor Stanley:

Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her Worlds

This talk is a lively introduction to the social history of the great city of Edo (now Tokyo) in the first half of the nineteenth century, focusing on the unconventional life of a woman named Tsuneno. Born to a Buddhist temple family in Japan’s snow country, Tsuneno ran away to the big city after being married and divorced three times. In Edo, she worked in maid service for a prominent bannerman, lived in the kabuki theater district, married (and then divorced, and then remarried) a masterless samurai, and ultimately ended up in the service of the famous City Magistrate, Tōyama Kagemoto. The talk uses Tsuneno’s and her family’s letters, maps of Edo, and woodblock prints to illuminate life among common people, discussing the possibilities and constraints facing women, in particular, as they navigated the shogun’s capital.

After #MeToo: Rewriting the History of Sexual Assault

The #MeToo movement forced many of us to rethink our assumptions about the exercise of political and social power. It also presented an opportunity for historians to rethink their approach to researching and writing about sexual assault. This talk considers how the rallying cry “believe women” challenges historical practice. The sources examined in the presentation are drawn from an early nineteenth-century Buddhist temple in rural Japan, but the problem they present is shared among many kinds of historians and feminist activists. Sexual assault often causes a rupture or fracturing of conventional narrative. What do we do with the silences and changing accounts? Which stories do we tell? And, ultimately, who do we believe?

Urban History as Global History: The View from Edo, the Greatest City in the World

Edo (now Tokyo) was once the greatest city in the world. In 1800, the era of Napoleon and revolution and declarations of independence, it boasted a population of 1.2 million. In comparison, London had a population of one million, Paris had 550,000, and New York was a tiny outpost of 60,000. Yet Edo is strangely invisible in global history. In part, this is because the city is difficult to integrate into the narratives of imperialism and trade that dominate global history scholarship. It was neither a colonial city nor a metropole, it was not a hub of foreign trade, and it was not even an ancient imperial capital. So what do we do with this strange, enormous, anomalous city? This talk explores the social history of early nineteenth century Edo in the context of global history, focusing on gender, violence, and consumption. It argues that global history does look different from the perspective of Japan, and that turning our attention to social history and the urban poor illuminates how and why mundane experiences of urban life were shared across many parts of the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Amy Stanley currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities available in her term on the NEAC DSB:

2 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

2 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023

Samuel Yamashita

Samuel Yamashita

April 1, 2021-March 31, 2024
Available for recorded or live events and classroom visits

Samuel Yamashita is the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History at Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he has taught since 1983. A well-established scholar, Yamashita first worked on Confucian philosophers in early modern East Asia, co-translating The Four-seven Debate: An Annotated Translation of the Most Famous Controversy in Neo-Confucian Thought (1993) and publishing Master Sorai’s Responsals: An Annotated Translation of Sorai sensei tōmonsho (1995). He then turned to World War II Japan and reconstructed home front life during the war using two hundred and fifty diaries and memoirs he collected over the course of nearly thirty years. He translated and published eight of these diaries in Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese (2005) and used his cache of diaries to write Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940-1945, which appeared in the University of Kansas Press’s Modern War Series in 2015. Drawing on his collection of diaries and memoirs, he is currently analyzing the responses of Japanese civilians and servicemen to their country’s defeat as a way of gauging their feelings about the war and their responsibility for what happened during the war. In 2009, an invitation to write a history of Japanese food led to a turn to food studies, and thus far he has delivered public lectures on the origins of Japanese foodways and the many cuisines of early modern Japan and published scholarly articles on food in wartime Japan and on Japanese culinary influence on contemporary fine dining in the United States. He expects to complete this project in 2025.

Yamashita is also a seasoned lecturer who has delivered keynote addresses and named lectures to general audiences throughout the country. Well known for his appearances in Greatest Events of World War II in Colour (Netflix, 2019), he recently completed interviews for Inside Japan’s War and Road to Victory in Colour, forthcoming documentaries on World War II.

Presentations offered by Professor Yamashita:

Understanding Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1937–1945

In his 1945 propaganda film “Know Your Enemy: Japan,” Frank Capra described the Japanese people as fanatical and sheeplike, which was the prevailing American view of the Japanese enemy during World War II. Over the last thirty years, I have been reading the wartime diaries of ordinary Japanese—men, women, teenagers and children—and have arrived at a more complex and nuanced picture of wartime Japanese. In this lecture I will share my findings, explaining how the wartime government mobilized the home front population, transforming them into loyal subjects ready, if not always willing, to fight to the death. I will describe how many Japanese defied their government’s policies and regulations but, in the end, simply accepted the horrors that the “decisive battle” promised to bring.

Did the War with Japan Have to End as it Did?

Every August 6 without fail, articles and editorials appear in newspapers and magazine throughout the world that ask whether the war with Japan had to end with the dropping of atomic bombs. Over the course of my career I have wondered this as well and have spent many years poring over the sequence of events that led to the decision to use the atomic bombs. In this lecture I will offer as full an answer to this question as is possible within an hour: I will describe Japan’s strategic position on the Asian mainland and in the Pacific at the war’s end, deteriorating home front conditions, the many missed opportunities to end the conflict and the military extremists’ final failed attempts to keep the surrender from taking place on August 15, 1945.

The Cultural Significance of the “Japanese Turn” in Fine Dining in the United States, 1980–2020

Over the last forty years, Japanese cuisine has had an oversized influence on fine dining in the United States. Chefs cooking at celebrated American restaurants are now freely using Japanese ingredients, condiments, culinary techniques, and concepts, and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, the leading culinary school in the country, now offers a concentration in Japanese cuisine. This lecture will describe in some detail this “Japanese turn” and argue that this contemporary culinary movement toward Japan is comparable to the Japanese influence on European and American art and architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and may be another important Japanese moment in American cultural history.

Samuel Yamashita currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in his term on the NEAC DSB:

2 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

2 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023

2 engagements between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024

The AAS Secretariat will be closed on Monday, May 30th, in observance of the Memorial Day Holiday