ANTHRO 171: Anthropology of Japan
Professor: Karen Nakamura
Teaching Assistant: Valerie Black

Fall 2018
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00p - 3:00p
Lecture Location: 155 Donner Lab

Section 1 Location: TBA
Section 2 Location: TBA
Section 3 Location: TBA

Long Course Description
This course offers an introductory survey of Japan from an anthropological perspective. It is open without prerequisite to anyone with a curiosity about what is arguably the most important non-Western society of the last 100 years, and to anyone concerned about the diverse conditions of modern life. We will range over many aspects of contemporary Japan, and draw on scholarship in history, literature, religion, and the various social sciences. The course does, however, revolve around three broad issues that provide an underlying thematic coherence and that demonstrate how anthropologists approach a society of such complexity and depth.
a. What is it that makes Japan a recognizable cultural and social entity? What cultural idioms and social institutions are distinctive, salient features of Japan and the Japanese? How can we talk about the "distinctiveness" of Japan without falling into the all-too-common trap of attributing a "uniqueness" to Japan?
b. What has been the course of social and cultural change in modern Japan? In what ways are Japan's present patterns continuous or discontinuous with its past? What have been the cultural politics of tradition? Is Japanese "modernity" the same as Euroamerican "modernity"?
c. Profound changes are now taking place in Japanese society as new social actors are appearing among the youth, the adults, and the elderly. What is the new social formation that is replacing the patterns of life that characterized Japan in the late twentieth-century?
These questions both motivate and organize this course. They are the central issues for any considered judgment of a country whose roots are deep in the East Asian past but whose place is now among the most influential nations of the world. The study of Japan challenges us to reevaluate the premises of Western social theory, and it rewards us with fresh understandings of the transformations to modernity and the nature and direction of modern life.
Prerequisites and Requirements

This course is open to all students at any level, in any major. There are no course prerequisites.

Course Readings
  • Other course readings in the form of articles and videos are available through the course management server