Edwin McClellan Visiting Fellow in Japanese Studies Lecture

Event
Posted : September 6, 2018

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Event
Posted : January 5, 2018

Japanese visual culture is characterized by multifarious and highly complex relationships between text and image, to such an extent that they would interfere with Ernest Fenollosa’s attempt to define the so-called idealistic art of Japan in the late 19th century. It is Professor Brisset’s aim in the present paper to discuss some of those intersemiotic devices, with an emphasis on the cryptographic tradition. A unique phenomenon in the Far East, it displays writing characters deliberately hidden in paintings or lacquerwares so as to allude to a text (a poem, be it Chinese or Japanese, or...

Event
Posted : September 26, 2016

Unlike early Buddhism, which seems on the whole unconcerned with the question of evil, much of medieval Japanese Buddhism has to do with exorcizing demons. In other words, premodern Japanese Buddhism was above all a demonology. But who were these demons, and why have they been neglected for so long by Buddhist scholarship? The Western distinction between gods and demons, with its moral connotations, is misleading. Most medieval deities were “demonic” (in the Greek sense of daimon) rather than “demoniac” (in the Chritian sense). A paradigmatic case is that of of an elusive deity called Kōjin:...

Event
Posted : January 7, 2016

In 1779 a Japanese scholar wished to (but could not) refuse a government assignment to translate a European set of images-with-captions. He was faced with what he called emuburema, and one problem with such images was that they did not mean what you saw.   Histories of early modern Japan (1600-1868) that deal with Japan’s contact with the rest of the world will inevitably mention that China and the Netherlands were the two exclusive trade partners of Japan in this period. They will also mention that one result of this contact with the Netherlands was the creation of the discipline of “...

Event
Posted : October 16, 2015

This special lecture is the keynote presentation for Treasures from Japan: An International Conference on Pre-Modern Books and Manuscripts in the Yale University Library that will take place from March 5-6, 2015. For centuries woodblock printing was the only alternative to manuscripts in Japan, but at the end of the sixteenth century, the technology of printing with movable type was introduced to Japan more or less simultaneously from two very different sources; the European tradition in the form of the Jesuits, who brought a printing press to Japan from Macao and used it in Kyushu, and the...

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

The Asia-Pacific War, like all wars and especially all defeats, polarized domestic society in Japan. Yet in postwar Japan, people who had been imprisoned for their political beliefs worked surprisingly well with the people who had put them there – or at least with people who had stood by and done nothing. That engagement permitted important new economic, political, cultural and social initiatives. In earlier work I argued that appeals to “scientific” (including social-scientific) reasoning and assiduous cultivation of personal networks were two key strategies for finding common ground among...

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

Contention over the character of shrines cropped up repeatedly in prewar Japan, from the early Meiji period until the 1940s. Were shrines religious or not? The government’s position as it evolved by the early twentieth century was that jurisdictional arrangements made clear that shrines differed from religious institutions; consequently, to require schoolchildren to offer reverence at shrines did not conflict with the Meiji Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom. For various reasons, however, the responsible ministries refrained from pronouncing officially on the content of what took...

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

Having stumbled into a project that has me doing a video ethnography of a colleague doing field-note ethnography – a project in ethnography squared – I keep tripping over issues of awareness. Do life course convoys act differently when they include an ethnographer? How should we reconcile the cold-eyed recordings of the camcorder with the warm-eyed memories of participants? And how do we preserve ethnography’s human scale while we widen its reach with digital technology – and avoid drowning in information overload? With words and film clips I raise these issues for discussion.

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

Komosô´, “Grassmat Monks,” wandered the roads and market towns of fifteenth century Japan, eking a living from begging and playing the shakuhachi, an end-blown bamboo flute. Within about a century and a half, their name was changed to Komusô, “Emptiness Monks,” capitalizing on the Buddhist associations of sûnyatâ, or “emptiness.” The revision may reflect actual social change for these mendicants, including recognition by the Tokugawa shogunate and official ties to important Zen institutions, but it also certainly reflects a spectrum of beliefs regarding the shakuhachi and its relation to...

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

We who write, read and study modern Japanese literature take for granted the existence of modern Japanese literature. We also take for granted that it should exist in the present form, written in the Japanese language, with kanji mixed into kanamoji. It is true that, soon after Japan came into contact with the West, the western-style novels began to flourish in the Japanese language as if it were the most natural course of events. Yet, when we examine the past, we see that specific historical conditions were necessary for the modern Japanese literature as we know it to emerge and to thrive....

Event
Posted : September 13, 2013

Please note this lecture will be conducted in Japanese.

Event
Posted : August 30, 2013

The groups and individuals who have come together under the slogan “women against nukes” (原発いらない女たち) have emerged as one of the most articulate and strategic voices against nuclear power, but also against capital and state exploitation; their voices are some of the few from Tohoku (as opposed to those from the Tokyo-based demonstrations) that have been heard in a national and even international arena.  The first part of this talk sketches some of the ways that this rhetoric allowed women, especially in Fukushima, to form political networks through digital media. These networks have become...

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