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Japanese Studies Conferences & Workshops

These are announcements for conferences that have already been planned and entirely organised. For prior announcements and CfP to these conferences, please use the Call for Papers/ Articles site.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015, Leiden University

Supported by The Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) Cultural Foundation, Tokyo

The Stichting Isaac Alfred Ailion Foundation, Leiden

Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden

The Heinz M. Kaempfer Foundation, Leiden

One widely accepted way to reconstruct the past is to stress narratives of history’s turning points: the singular moments seen as causing massive historical changes. The Battle of Sekigahara of 1600 and the Meiji Restoration of 1868 are commonly perceived as these. However, history’s turning points are not limited to political events: an equally important role is played by technological developments such as printing. The first woodblock printing boom in the seventeenth-century, the introduction of lithography in 1880s profoundly transformed Japan, corroborating Walter Benjamin’s seminal observations on the manifold socio-political consequences of mechanical reproduction. These events serve as benchmarks for the alleged shifts between the pre-modern, the early-modern and modern periods characterized by different political systems, social lives and cultures. Despite the fact that modernities are historical blends (Gluck, 1998), narratives of discontinuity are pervasive. These notions have greatly influenced interpretations of Japan’s visual culture.

This tendency is particularly observable in printed representations of women. Images of women in Japan’s print culture from the seventeenth through the mid-twentieth centuries reveal an astonishing diversity of formats and functions including images of exemplary women depicted in jokunsho (conduct books for women), “portraits” of prostitutes, images of modern girls (moga) endorsing commercial products on posters, representations of “good wives and wise mothers” (ryōsai kenbo) in women’s magazines, images of “beauties” displayed at art exhibitions, and many others. However, printed representations of women have rarely been studied in terms of their common features. Instead, they have generally been divided into different categories enforced by the concepts of “modern”, “early modern” and “pre-modern” informed by discrete conceptual and ideological premises.

This workshop aims at complicating these classifications. It will address the following questions: how have printed representations of women changed, and why? What role has the medium of print as a technological condition played in the processes of representation? What are the consequences of mechanical reproduction for the construction of history? Examination of printed images of women can be a valuable contribution to debates about Japan’s visual culture and historiography for at least two reasons. First, as printing gave birth to a preference for the new and innovative it played a key role in the emergence of modernity (Luhmann, 1992).  Second, the female body has been constituted as a site of culturally contested meanings (Butler, 1989), and as such it narrates diverse histories. Through the investigation of printed images of women this workshop will contribute to the current debates about the constructions of history and media-saturated reality.

Time: 9:30-17:00

Venue: LIPSIUS Bldg., Room 147, Leiden University, Cleveringa plaats 1, Leiden

Attendance is free but registration is required. Please register by 7 September 2015.

Registration: Dr. Ewa Machotka  e.machotka@hum.leidenuniv.nl

More information: www.hum.leiden.edu/lias/highlights/15-sept-international-workshop-images-of-women.html


9.30-10.00    Registration and Coffee

10.00-10.10  Opening word, Ewa Machotka (Leiden University)

Session 1: Images of Women in Early Modern Print Culture

Chair: Sharalyn Orbaugh (University of British Columbia)

10.10-10.30 Harbingers of Modernity: Objective Portrayal of Women in ukiyo-e,

                    Masato Naitō (Keio University)

10.30-10.50 Women in Print: The Figure of the Woman Writer in Japanese Early

                    Modern Print Culture, Ewa Machotka (Leiden University)

10.50-11.10 Women with Utamaro and with Kuniyoshi. From Idol to Personality,

                    Matthi Forrer (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

11.10-11.30 Pictures of Beautiful Women of the Nineteenth Century: Decadent yet

                    Ideal, Sawako Takemura-Chang (Leiden University)

11.30-12.15 General discussion 

12.15-14.00 Lunch break**

Session 2: Images of Women in Modern Print Culture

Chair: Jaqueline Berndt (Kyoto Seika University)

14.00-14.20 Whitening: The Skin Color of Women in Japanese Posters

                     Yukihiro Hirayoshi (Museum & Archives, Kyoto Institute of      


14.20-14.40 Images of Women in the Age of New Reproduction Techniques –

                    Takehisa Yumeji (1884 – 1934) and Commercial Imagery in early 20th                                         century Japan, Sabine Schenk (LMU Munich)

14.40-15.00 Images of Women in Propaganda Kamishibai, 1938-45,

                    Sharalyn Orbaugh (University of British Columbia)

15.00-15.20 Odorless Bodies: Edo-era Women in Sugiura Hinako’s Manga

                    Jaqueline Berndt (Kyoto Seika University)

15.20-16.15 General discussion and closing remarks

16.15-17.00 Drinks


International Symposium: Shifting Perspectives on Media and Materials in Early Modern Japan, 4th- 5th July 2015, SOAS, University of London

This is the first international symposium in the UK that highlights the diversity of the cultural production of early modern Japan – 17th through 19th centuries. It seeks to refocus attention on how researchers define their approaches to sourcing and interpreting a large variety of research materials that include prints, illustrated and printed books as well as ephemera such as topical prints and broadsheets. Senior and early career researchers from the disciplines of history, art history, literature, and media studies will explore the possibilities of highlighting selected research materials as media that shaped the discourse and cultural production of early modern Japan. We will consider issues such as media, text, discourse, text, materiality and the framing of research through taxonomies and archival research.

The flourishing and intersecting textual and visual cultures of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries are the sources of substantial archives of research materials in and outside Japan. There is a pressing need to refocus attention on these research materials as sources for uncovering the many facets of early modern Japan and for reconsidering the position of researchers as interpreters. The modernity of early modern Japan needs to be more fully understood by realising the roles these materials played in the shaping of public discourse as equivalents to social media. Narrow disciplinary frameworks have created problems in interpreting certain materials that fall between the cracks of conventional categories. The aim is to stimulate debate by discussing issues such as:

- How can interdisciplinary perspectives make approaches to interpreting these research materials more effective?

- How can the recent proliferation of international early modern manuscript reading workshops be used to improve our understanding of research materials as sources for uncovering early modern Japan? 

- How can we develop a better understanding of the direct impact the acquisition of skills can have on our approaches to interpreting research materials?

The first day of the symposium focuses on the agency of research materials as media in the production of discourse in early modern Japan. The second day deals with issues of framing research through categories, taxonomies and archives. Overall, particular attention will be paid to regional contexts that transcend the usual focus on urban centres.

To register and for further information please go to:


Organisers: Christopher Gerteis, Doreen Mueller, Radu Leca.

This symposium is supported by the Japan Research Centre, SOAS, University of London, Japan Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation



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