ANTH 213, EAST 313
Contemporary Japan and the Ghosts of Modernity
This course introduces students to contemporary Japan, examining how its defeat in the Second World War and loss of empire in 1945 continue to shape Japanese culture and society. Looking especially at the sphere of cultural production, it focuses on the question of what it means to be modern as expressed through the tension between resurgent neonationalism and the aspiration to internationalize. The course charts how the legacy of Japan’s imperial failure plays a significant role in its search for renewal and identity since 1945. How, it asks, does the experience of catastrophic failure—and failure to account for that failure—play into continued aspirations for modernity today? How does Japanese society wrestle with modernity’s two faces: its promise for progress and its history of catastrophic violence? The course follows the trajectory of Japan’s postwar nation-state development after the dissolution of empire, from its resurrection out of the ashes after defeat, to its identity as a US ally and economic superpower during the Cold War, to decades of recession since the 1990s and the search for new relations with its neighbors and new reckonings with its own imperial violence and postwar inactions against the background of rising neonationalism.
ANTH 324, EAST 324
Politics of Memory
This course explores the role of memory as a social, cultural, and political force in contemporary society. How societies remember difficult pasts has become a contested site for negotiating the present. Through the lens of memory, we examine complex roles that our relationships to difficult pasts play in navigating issues we face today. This course explores this politics of memory that takes place in the realm of popular culture and public space. The class asks such questions as: How do you represent difficult and contested pasts? What does it mean to enable long-silenced victims’ voices to be heard? What are the consequences of re-narrating the past by highlighting past injuries and trauma? Does memory work heal or open wounds of a society and a nation? Through examples drawn from the Holocaust, the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, the Vietnam War, genocide in Indonesia and massacres in Lebanon, to debates on confederacy statues, slavery, and lynching in the US, this course approaches these questions through an anthropological exploration of concepts such as memory, trauma, mourning, silence, voice, testimony, and victimhood.