The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: Why are they important, even for people who don’t like sports?

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games: Why are they important, even for people who don’t like sports?

William W. Kelly - Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sumitomo Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies, Yale University

Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 4:30pm to 6:15pm
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Auditorium, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511

The Council is pleased to present the 21st Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies.

Lecture will take place from 4:30 PM to 5:30PM in the Amphitheater Room 101 at Henry R. Luce Hall, followed by a reception in Luce Common Room from 5:30PM to 6:15 PM.

The Summer Olympic Games is the most watched sports mega-event in the world. It is also the costliest, the most politically precarious, and the most strangely constructed sports mega-event on the planet. What we will see at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are not just elite bodies in motion, in agonistic contests and aesthetic displays of excellence and effort, but powerful ideas in motion. My focus is on the latter, and how the 2020 Games are provoking consequential debates about the future of Tokyo, the prestige of Japan, the course of East Asian geopolitical rivalries, and the power of modern sports to redefine citizenship, undermine the binaries of gender, challenge the lines between ability and disability, and disrupt the frontiers of the human body.


William W. Kelly is professor emeritus of anthropology and the Sumitomo Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies at Yale University. One of the themes of his research and writing has been the significance of sport and body culture in modern Japan. In recent years, with support from the Council on East Asian Studies, he has edited a trio of books on This Sporting Life: Sports and Body Culture in Modern Japan (2007), The Olympics in East Asia: The Crucible of Nationalism, Regionalism, and Globalism (2011), and The New Geopolitics of Sport in East Asia (2014). In 2018, University of California Press published his The Hanshin Tigers: A Professional Sportsworld in Modern Japan.

Kelly has long been committed to US-Japan educational exchange and in 2009, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, by the Japanese government. During his 38 years at Yale, he received three awards for teaching, the McCredie Teaching Award for Information Technology in Teaching in Yale College (2004), the Harwood F. Byrnes / Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize for distinguished teaching in Yale College (2011), and the Graduate Mentor Award in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2013).


The John W. Hall Lecture Series in Japanese Studies was established with generous support from Mrs. Robin Hall in memory of her husband.  Considered one of this past century’s finest scholars of the history of Japan, John Whitney Hall was born in Tokyo in 1916 and developed an interest in Japanese language, culture, and history at an early age.  After receiving his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Harvard, Hall began his academic career at the University of Michigan in 1949 and came to Yale in 1961 as A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 1983.

Professor Hall specialized in the Ashikaga through Late Tokugawa periods, and throughout his career he wrote or edited some of the most important and influential volumes on Japanese history.  He contributed to the study of Japan through not only his writing, but also through service as chair of several local and national committees, including the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Council of Learned Societies-Social Science Research Council (ACLS-SSRC) Joint Committee on Japanese Studies.

The Council on East Asian Studies hopes this lecture series will enable young and old scholars alike to remember John Whitney Hall’s work and grand contributions to the study of Japan.

Region: 
Japan