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Dr Irene González-López

  • Overview



    Irene González-López joined Birkbeck in 2021 as Lecturer in Japanese Studies. Previously, she has taught at SOAS, David Game College, Aichi Kenritsu University, and Kyoto University.

    Before pursuing her PhD at SOAS, Irene lived in Japan for over seven years. There she completed a BA in Japanese Studies and MA in Film Studies. During that time, she also learnt ikebana (flower arrangement) and shodō (calligraphy), and her professional experience ranged from factory worker and waitress in a snack-bar, to interpreter and university lecturer. All these experiences nurtured her understanding of Japanese society and constitute an endless source of inspiration for her research. 

    Her research spans Japanese creative industries, with a special focus on postwar cinema and issues related to gender and sexuality, both in front and behind the camera. Irene has written extensively on the representation of sex work in Japanese cinema, as well as on Japanese female directors, adaptations, and stardom.

    She is co-editor of Tanaka Kinuyo: Nation, Stardom, and Female Subjectivity (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), Haneda Sumiko: Her Approaches to Gender, Culture, Society and Arts in Japanese Documentary Film (forthcoming), and of The Art of Intervention (forthcoming), and has published in journals including Film Studies, Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, and US-Japan Women’s Journal, of which she is a member of the Advisory Board. Irene was also part of the BFI Advisory Board for the Japan Film Season 2020-2021, and often collaborates with international film festivals (Las Palmas International Film Festival, Open City Doc, etc.), media industries (Arrow Films), and cultural institutions (BFI, Institute of Contemporary Art London, Barbican Centre, Japan Foundation).


    • Monograph: Selling Sex in Japanese Cinema: The prostitute and the postwar quest for modernity (forthcoming)

      Selling Sex in Japanese Cinema explores the representation of prostitutes in Japanese postwar cinema (1945-1975) to interrogate how and why this trope remained popular across a great variety of films and how it related to broader debates concerning Japan’s reconfiguration after Second World War. Traversing across melodrama, avant-garde, and soft-porn films, the book discusses canonical films as well as films previously overlooked in academia to shed light on the meaningful variations of the trope. Under contract with Michigan University Press

    • Research Project: Japanese Documentary Filmmaker Haneda Sumiko (2019-present)

      This project explores the fascinating cinema of Haneda Sumiko, one of the most prolific Japanese documentary filmmakers. It seeks to analyse her recurrent themes, political choices, and heterogeneous aesthetics, while making her works accessible to a wider audience. Led in collaboration with Marcos Centeno, Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernández and Ricardo Matos Cabo, the project includes the publication of a volume that I am co-editing (under contract with Routledge), a series of international symposia, online and in person film screenings, collaborations with film festivals (including Open City Doc [Londres]), La Inesperada [Barcelona], etc.), the commission of English subtitles and digitalisation of several films by Haneda, and the translation of selected Haneda’s writings. With the support of Birkbeck School’s Strategic Research Fund, Japan Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, and Lady Marks Charitable Trust.

    • Co-editor, Tanaka Kinuyo: Nation, Stardom and Female Subjectivity. (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) 

      This is the first book in English dedicated to the actor and director Tanaka Kinuyo. Bringing together a range of Japanese and Western scholars, the book offers a new perspective on the Japanese studio system and stardom, interlaced with the national history and the history of women in Japan. Co-edited with Michael Smith.


    • PhD in Film Studies, SOAS, University of London
    • MA Film Studies, Kyoto University
    • BA Japanese Studies, Tenri University
    • BA Media Studies and Communication, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Programme Director, Japanese Studies with International Experience
    • Academic Coordinator of Exchange Programme with Japan
    • Exam Sub Board Chair, Japanese Studies

    Professional activities

    2023 –present Estudios de Asia Oriental. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Advisory Board.

    2022. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Reviewer for Postdoctoral Fellowships applications, August 2022.

    2021-present US-Japan Women’s Journal. Advisory Board.

    2020 British Film Institute. Member of BFI Advisory Board for Japan 2020 Film Season.

    2019 J-SustaiN International Journal, Sustainable Future for Human Security. Peer reviewer.

    Honours and awards

    • Translation and Critical Introduction Award: "Film Director: Tanaka Kinuyo" (Murakawa Hide), Translation and Publication Committee of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, September 2021
    • Research Project and Publication: "Japanese Documentary Director Haneda Sumiko", Lady Marks Charitable Fund, September 2023
    • Birkbeck School's Strategic Research Fund. Project: “Japanese Documentary Filmmaker Haneda Sumiko: Authorship and Gender Discourses”. Co-organised with Marcos Centeno, Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernández and Ricardo Matos., Birkbeck, September 2021
    • Research Project : “Japanese Documentary Filmmaker Haneda Sumiko: Authorship and Gender Discourses”, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, September 2021
    • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), September 2019


  • Research


    Research interests

    • Japanese Cinema and modern and contemporary Japanese visual cultures
    • Gender and Sexuality Studies, feminist film theory
    • Representations of sex work in popular culture and media
    • Japanese female directors and female authorship
    • Adaptations and remakes
    • Stardom and Authorship

    Research projects

    Selling Sex in Japanese Cinema: The prostitute and the postwar quest for modernity

    The Japanese Documentary Cinema of Haneda Sumiko. Art, Gender, Society, and Culture.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I welcome prospective PhD applicants in these areas:

    • Japanese Cinema and visual cultures, especially post-1945
    • Gender and sexuality in Japan
    • Adaptations and Remakes 
    • Female authorship and Japanese film directors
    • Stardom in Japanese cinema
    • Porn Studies


    Teaching modules

    • Dissertation MA Film and Screen Media (AHVM020D7)
    • Research Skills Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (Modern Languages) (ARCL061Z7)
    • Memory and History (ARCL065S7)
    • Interrogating the Self (ARCL066S7)
    • Film and Politics (Level 5) (AREL094S5)
    • Creative Arts, Culture and Communication Postgraduate Research (AREN060Z8)
    • Culture and Image (ARLL009S4)
    • Advanced Seminar in Japanese Culture and Society (ARLL026H6)
    • Theorising Japanese Cinema (ARMC093S5)
    • Manga and Anime (Level 6) (ARMC187S6)
    • Rethinking Japan: Introduction to Modern Japanese Society and Culture (Level 4) (LNLN023S4)
    • Representations of Gender, Love and Sexuality (Level 5) (LNLN024S5)
  • Publications




    Book Section