The classes belong to the “Joint Degree Program in Transcultural Studies,” and some of them are also offered as part of the “Courses on Asian and Transcultural Studies” package (CATS), offered as part of Kyoto University’s FY2014 MEXT Top Global University Project (Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; MEXT) “Kyoto University Japan Gateway Project.”
For further information, see the “Asian Platform for Global Sustainability and Transcultural Studies” (AGST).
Course material complementing the on-site course sessions can be accessed via Moodle.
Transcultural Studies (Spring)
Introduction to Transcultural Studies
The concept of transculturality can be used both as a heuristic device (e.g. multi- perspectivity and multi-locality) and focus of study (e.g. cultural entanglements). It is embedded in a large and very heterogeneous landscape of theoretical and methodological approaches that come from various disciplines and cover different thematic, historical and geographic areas. Jointly conducted by four researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, this course includes a lecture series combined with a discussion class (tutorium) and focuses on the contributions and limitations of inherited and current notions of transculturality. Focusing on three study areas, “Society, Economy and Governance,” “Knowledge, Belief and Religion” and “Visual, Media and Material Culture,” and the respective fields of research of the lecturers, theories and methods will be tested, e.g. in explorations of Japanese cinema, global “art” cinema and transcultural filmmaking practices, circular movements in the development of “Modern Postural Yoga,” and the relationship between patterns of migration and modes of institutionalization. The goal of the course is to introduce students to diverse disciplinary perspectives enabling them to frame their own studies of transcultural phenomena and perspectives.
Visual, Media and Material Culture (VMC)
Japanese Contemporary Popular Culture: Media Practices in a Global Context
Japanese popular media practices play not only in Japan a major role in the everyday lives of many people. The course investigates various elements of this popular and consumer culture, such as manga, anime, or games, from a transcultural perspective. The focus of this practice-oriented and interactive seminar lies on theoretical concepts and analytical techniques useful to engage transculturality in the cross-disciplinary research fields of visual, material and media culture.
The course revisits key readings for a transcultural approach dealing with visual practices, such as cosplay, and media content, for example, cultural representations of nationality or gender. A second point of departure is formed by questions of production, reception and appropriation by users in and outside Japan. The theoretical input forms the basis for practical exercises in applying these methodologies to concrete cases.
Transcultural Studies (Fall)
Society, Economy and Governance (SEG)
Japan at Play: Cultural Orderings of Leisure and Asobi
Nation-building or regional marketing at first glance appear as matters of politics but they also penetrate deeply into the sphere of play, amusement, and leisure. This course revolves around the question how certain actors seek to create a specific “Japan” through leisure policies, domestic tourism, or the recent “Cool Japan” country-marketing campaign. Who decides what is play and non-play? Who decides about “good” play (asobi) in Japan? What role do regions outside Japan as well as leisure’s supposed opposites, seriousness and work, play in these attempts?
By tracing play as a matter of concern for policy makers, intellectuals, and ordinary people, the course further introduces a new theoretical and methodological approach to Cultural Studies that is less concerned with meanings and values but with contested, contingent modes of cultural ordering: narratives about, for example, a given nation’s place in the world and their material embodiments, such as written laws or metropolitan redevelopment projects.
Visual, Media and Material Culture (VMC)
Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: A Labelling Approach
With the spread of manga and anime around the world, many have adopted the Japanese term ‘otaku’ to identify fans of such media. The connection to manga and anime may seem straightforward, but, when taken for granted, often serves to obscure the debates within and around media fandom in Japan.
This course questions the naturalization and trivialization of ‘otaku’ by examining the historical contingency of the term as a way to identify and contain problematic youth, consumers and fan cultures in Japan. It explores key moments in the evolving discourse of ‘otaku’ in Japan. Rather than presenting a smooth, triumphant narrative of the transition of a subculture to the mainstream, the course repositions ‘otaku’ in specific historical, social and economic contexts, providing new insights into the significance of the ‘otaku’ phenomenon in Japan and the world and offering a new perspective in form of theories of labelling.