ANTHRO 254a: Japan: Culture, Society, Modernity
Professor: Karen Nakamura
Teaching Assistants: Sarah le Baron von Baeyer, Tina Palivos, Annie Claus
Lectures: Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:35 - 12:50 pm
Lecture Location: ML211 - Mason Laboratories, 9 Hillhouse Avenue
Writing Section 1: Annie Claus
Section 1 Location: TBA
Writing Section 2: Sarah le Baron von Baeyer
Section 2 Location: TBA
Writing Section 3: Tina Palivos
Section 3 Location: TBA
Course home page:
Course Syllabus and Schedule: Is located in the "Resources" section of Classes V2.

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 Assignments
The course requires all students to write three short essays over the semester, which will test your assimilation of and reflections on lectures, readings, and videos. Instructions for the assignments will be posted at the class web site and discussed in class before the due dates.

Essay #13-4 pages
Thurs, 9/25 @ 11:30 am
Essay #210 pages
Draft: Tue, 10/22 @ 11:30 am
Final: Thur, 11/5 @ 11:30am
Essay #35 pages
Friday, 12/3 @ 11:30 am
WR OptionWriting Assignments
Section Quizzes
Section Participation
In addition, all students must complete one of the following two options: graded section participation
or a final examination. Please note that you MUST select and complete the the section option if you wish to receive WR credit in this course. Due to a shortage of TFs, this course is only being offered as a WR course this year. You must take it as a WR course and enroll and participate in a writing section.
Option 1: Course discussion sections
Beginning in the second week, weekly discussion sections will be held once a week, led by the Teaching Fellows. All students may attend these classes, but to qualify for the "sections" option and for WR credit, you must (a) attend at least nine of the sections, (b) participate actively in the discussions, and (c) complete the short written exercises that will accompany most weeks' section meetings. Those of you selecting this option will receive a grade for section participation based on an evaluation of your written responses and general participation. This grade will be about 25% of your course grade.
Option 2: Final examination Not available Fall 2010
If you do not complete the discussion section option for a grade and WR credit, you must take a final examination,which will be held at the scheduled time during the final exam period. The exam will require that you write for two hours without notes on four essay questions that will be selected from a longer list of questions distributed at the final class. I encourage you to view the final examination instructions and previous years' questions during the course to better prepare yourself for its format. Please note, too, that the examination is only offered at the assigned time. Given its format, it cannot be taken in advance. Please consider this in making your end-of-term travel plans.

Grading Practices
The essay grading in this course is done both by me and by the Teaching Fellows. We first meet to discuss each assignment and its guidelines for evaluation; the TFs read the papers, and pass them to me for my own reading and a final determination of the grade. If you wish to talk about our comments and/or grading of your essays, you are free to consult with either the TF or myself, however as the instructor I remain the final arbiter of grades.
Deadlines and extensions policy
Please note carefully my policy about deadlines! The teaching fellows and I try to make available the topics of these assignments well in advance of the deadlines, and offer advice and feedback for those interested along the way. I do not give extensions of these deadlines except for unforeseen real-life emergencies. This does not include concert appearances, theater performances, sports competitions, holiday travel plans, computer malfunctions, FMLs, and other obligations at the deadline.
I do not accept Dean's excuses. However, late essays submitted within ten days of the deadline will be accepted, but they will be ineligible for grades above B.
Laptop Policy
I don't mind students using their laptops or tablet PCs in class, in fact in this day and age I fully expect it. But let's be realistic about multitasking. If you are reading and responding your e-mail or checking FML, you aren't listening to the lecture or taking notes. And worse, you are distracting all of the students sitting behind you wondering why you are giggling in class. So if you must websurf then please do it from the back row of the classroom where no one can shoulder-surf you -- or better yet, not in class at all.

Textbooks and Course Readings
The required books will be available at the Labyrinth Bookstore (290 York Street). Course readings in the forms of articles are available through the ClassesV2 system.
  • Yuko Ogasawara, Office Ladies and Salaried Men: Power, Gender, and Work in Japanese Companies, University of California Press. ISBN-10: 0679772626.
  • Elisabeth Bumiller, The Secrets of Mariko. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN-10: 0679772626.
  • Bestor, Theodore C., Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN-10: 0520220242.
Course Readings
  • Other course readings in the form of articles and videos are available through the Classes V2 server

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