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


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: 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

This module aims to provide you with a critical understanding of crucial aspects in Japan's modern cultural and social history. It will give you an opportunity to learn some of the main ways to explore Japanese history, culture, and 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); and Japan's post-war transformation into a high-tech consumer society (1945-present).

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'.

Some of the topics we will look at include Japan as a nation and community, identity in modern Japan, Japan in Asia, Western images of Japan, multi-cultural Japan and gender in Japan.

Indicative module content

  • Pre-modern History of Japan
  • Meiji Period: Becoming Civilised
  • Taisho Period: From Civilisation to Culture
  • Showa Period (1926-1945): Overcoming Modernity?
  • The Postwar 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