Kempf Fund Lecture

Event
Posted : January 24, 2022

In the early 1980s, office automation (OA) swept the Japanese business world. A variety of new data processing and telecommunications technologies seemed likely to transform women’s employment, for OA was expected to reduce clerical drudgework and therefore potentially eliminate the need for “office ladies” or OL. However, facing critical shortages of programmers, systems engineers, and other technical specialists, companies heavily recruited women and even created all-women work groups and subsidiary companies. In the popular cultural imagination, women brought “feminine” aptitudes and...

Event
Posted : January 24, 2022

Readers of the Lunheng 論衡 sometimes conclude that its author Wang Chong 王充 (27-ca.97) lacks any coherent positive views—that he concerns himself only with criticising his contemporaries and the traditions they espouse. This paper offers a different reading of Wang Chong’s project, using his views on tian 天 as a case study and focusing on his approach to evidence: what kinds of evidence is he inclined to accept and what does he do with this evidence? Wang Chong’s struggles with the crucial but difficult concept of tian 天 range across multiple different chapters of the Lunheng. By tracing these...

Event
Posted : January 24, 2022

More information coming soon. Zhange Ni is an Associate Professor of Religion and Literature in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech. She is a research fellow at the Nantes Institute for Advanced Study, France (2021-2022). Her research interests include religion-making and secularism, religion and literature, American young adult fiction, and Chinese internet literature. She is the author of The Pagan Writes Back: When World Religion Meets World Literature (University of Virginia Press, 2015) and Religion and the Arts in The Hunger Games (Brill, 2020). She is currently...

Event
Posted : January 24, 2022

Two thirds of the way through the Tale of Genji, the eponymous hero dies, an event that the reader can only imagine since it does not form part of the tale. Instead, the chapter that follows Genji’s final appearance opens with a shocking announcement: “Now that his light was gone, among the many descendants who had basked in his glow there, not one could take his place.” In the millenium since Genji’s unnarrated death, many famous frustrated scholars and fans have attempted to supply a clearer sense of an ending to Genji’s life story. Writing in the early 1930s, the French novelist Marguerite...

Event
Posted : March 1, 2021

This paper engages with debates within feminism to rethink woman, gender, body, and agency as conceptual categories for reading medieval Japanese literary/Buddhist texts. It questions the unreflexive transposition of contemporary categories of thought that have emerged out of a specifically European history on to worlds that were shaped by very different histories and religious/cultural traditions. The paper argues that in medieval Japanese texts gender did not function as a ‘social’ category posited against the ‘natural’ fact of sex and that gender was instead a kind of script in which the...

Event
Posted : March 1, 2021

In 2019, novelist Kawakami Mieko returned to her 2008 novella Chichi to ran and published a newly expanded version of the story under the title Natsumonogatari. In this talk, David Boyd will discuss the relationship between Chichi to ran and the expanded novel. He will then speak about the process of co-translating Natsumonogatari into English with Sam Bett as Breasts and Eggs, focusing especially on the voices of the three women at the heart of Kawakami’s original novella. David Boyd is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has translated...

Event
Posted : February 15, 2021

“All-under-Heaven” (tianxia) is frequently invoked in received pre-imperial discourses—often tacitly understood as the amorphous Zhou world that centered on the “Central Plains”—as the imagined location of political and cultural unification. Despite being incongruent with the polycentric landscape of the first millennium BCE in China, the unifying and universalizing imagery that it conjured was historicized in early imperial histories such as Shiji and Hanshu and canonized along with the Confucian classics. This universalizing tendency and homogenizing orientation fostered, among other things...

Event
Posted : January 19, 2021

This talk analyzes the exhibition and reception of so-called “poisonous weed films” in order to expose and purge “ox-ghosts and snake-spirits” before and during the Cultural Revolution. Relating Chinese terms to the Greek word Pharmakon—denoting at once remedy, poison and scapegoat—I argue that a pharmacological and demonological discourse undergirded Maoist mass movements, in which the stage and the screen became the most sensitive sites of ills and cures, haunting and exorcism, pollution and hygiene. Participatory rituals of film criticism functioned as incantatory shamanism to cleanse the...

Event
Posted : February 18, 2020

Convenience stores or the konbini are central fixtures of the landscape of both urban and rural Japan. They have also tended to be overlooked in analyses of Japanese cultural production and circulation. With the recent publication of Murata Sayaka’s Akutagawa Prize-winning novel Convenience Store Woman, and manga and anime series such as Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store and Convenience Store Boyfriends, this ubiquitous part of daily life in Japan has gained some visibility. And yet, while these texts offer us sites from which to consider the convenience store’s impact on everyday...

Event
Posted : April 3, 2019

Mapping the politics of demolition and displacement exposes the physical effects of the Olympics on the urban landscape of Tokyo and the displacement of vulnerable and precarious persons. How can the Olympics be considered a cyclical ‘practice of subtraction,’ where the city is not only rebuilt but unbuilt?  Focusing on specific sites uncovers the intertwined layers of the urban development history of the 3 Tokyo Olympics and the imperial (1940), high-growth (1964) and post-growth (2020) periods they represent. An examination of local and international pressures being exerted on these spaces...

Event
Posted : April 9, 2018

Shisha no sho (The Book of the Dead), completed in 1943 by Orikuchi Shinobu, is a modern Japanese classic that has inspired many adaptations, including an animated film and a manga. Inspired by the ancient Egyptian tale of Isis and Osiris, the novel is a sweeping, gothic tale about a strange affair between an inquisitive noblewoman and a ghost in the eighth century. Not only is the story unforgettable, the book is also a remarkable artifact, produced in the midst of the fervent nationalism and intense censorship of World War II. In this talk, Angles will untangle the novel’s complex history,...

Event
Posted : April 5, 2018

Dreaming is a ubiquitous yet stubbornly mysterious phenomenon. Even dogs, cats, horses, and octopi dream, but in our era of cognitive neuroscience and fMRI there is still no consensus among specialists on what dreaming is for. It seems to be a condition of modernity that dreams are viewed as private matters: they are simply the products of the dreamer’s own mental activity during sleep, nothing more. Even in the relatively rare cases where dreams are deemed to have meaning, it is a meaning generated from within the dreamer’s own psyche and usually concerns the dreamer alone. But from both...

Event
Posted : February 13, 2017

The Tang dynasty is unique in the Chinese historiographical tradition for having two complete dynastic histories, the Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Old Tang History, comp. 945) and its Northern Song revision, the Xin Tang shu (New Tang History, comp. 1060). Song historian Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007-1072) famously streamlined the basic annals (benji 本紀) by two-thirds in order to clarify the moral lessons of Tang history. Though his cuts were not as extreme, in revising the Tang biographies, fellow historian Song Qi 宋祁 (998-1061) also sought to make the successes and failures of individuals more instructive by...

Event
Posted : October 2, 2015

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