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Rethinking Japan: Introduction to Modern Japanese Society and Culture (Level 4)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Michael Tsang
  • Assessment: a 1000-word book review (25%), 2000-word essay (60%) and continuous assessment of post-sessional short essays and class participation (15%)

Module description

In this module you will gain a critical understanding of crucial aspects of Japan's modern social and cultural history, especially its cultural products.

You will be introduced to key texts (historical, literary, visual, cinematic and theoretical) which represent and chart two central developments:

  • Japan's emergence as a modern, 'westernised', powerful and imperialistic nation-state (early twentieth century)
  • Japan's post-war transformation into a high-tech consumer society (1945-present)

Together we will consider notions of 'Japaneseness' and the changing discourses on national and cultural identity, with which Japan sought to position itself vis-à-vis the West and Asia; and in turn, we will scrutinise western images of Japan and the 'Far East'.

Topics include: Japan as a nation and community, identity in modern Japan, Japan in Asia, Western images of Japan, multicultural Japan and gender in Japan.

Indicative syllabus

  • Pre-modern history of Japan
  • Meiji period: becoming civilised
  • Taisho period: from civilisation to culture
  • Showa period (1926-1945): overcoming modernity?
  • The post-war period (1945-1989): culture, identity and nation
  • Contemporary Japanese culture: an anthropological perspective
  • Introduction to Japanese film
  • Introduction to Japanese literature
  • Introduction to creative industries
  • Gender and the family
  • Minorities
  • Globalisation