Virtual Roundtable:
The “Rebirth” of Japanese Studies

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) 2020 conference was cancelled. I organized the roundtable session on The “Rebirth” of Japanese Studies, which participants looked forward to as a way to prompt important conversations on the state of the Japan Studies field at present as well as its future directions. These dialogues are urgent perhaps now more than ever.

I have made this page as a sort of “virtual roundtable” that showcases comments from some of the original discussants. It also provides a space for responses from and engagement with others in the field. As is explained in further detail below, written submissions on the roundtable’s topics will be allowed for 2-3 limited periods and posted publicly. Although we cannot recreate the dynamic environment of face-to-face discussion, I hope that through this platform and digital engagement we can contribute a venue for open and equitable reflections on the state of the Japan Studies field. At the same time, these pages present a record of thoughts and ideas about our present moment while suggesting ways Japan Studies can productively move forward as a community. To read a more in-depth explanation of the roundtable’s origins and goals, please see “Embracing the Rebirth of Japanese Studies” on the Association for Asian Studies’ #AsiaNow blog.

The original participants and abstract are as follows:

Organizer: Paula R. Curtis (Yale University)
Chair: Laura Miller (University of Missouri-St. Louis)
Discussants:

  • Ioannis Gaitanidis (Chiba University, Japan)
  • Melinda Landeck (Austin College)
  • Mark Pendleton (University of Sheffield, United Kingdom)
  • Takeshi Watanabe (Wesleyan University)
  • Christina Yi (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Abstract:

The 2019 “Death of Japanese Studies” panel began an important dialogue on issues facing Japan-related scholars and educators, particularly as the field has evolved in response to geopolitical and intellectual circumstances. Junior scholars face new and pressing challenges that require a fundamental reconceptualization of the "Japan" of our work, how institutional concerns alter the contours and security of our positions, and what the implications of these changes are on the survival of the field. If the Japanese Studies rooted in post-WWII needs, Cold War mentalities, and “Cool Japan” has, indeed, died, then are we in a moment of the "rebirth" of Japanese Studies?

How can we approach the present transformations in more inclusive and diverse ways that address the rise of a new kind of Japanese (and Asian) Studies more broadly even as the support for and from the academy is in decline? What does this balancing act and the state of Japanese Studies look like at institutions across the globe with different pedagogical and research priorities, particularly when the humanities and social sciences (including area studies) are increasingly devalued? How can we contend with diminishing enrollments in regional specialization courses amid the rising demand for global studies hires? Of particular concern is how these changes affect the future prospects and training of the next generation of researchers and educators. This roundtable of early career scholars working in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan, will discuss these concerns and their own experiences with an eye towards brainstorming practical solutions with the wider community.


Out of respect for the current challenges many are facing in a time of global pandemic, it was not required for all participants to provide their original statements for the roundtable. Those who were able to contribute are provided below. Some writers chose to preserve the comments originally prepared for AAS and append further reflections in the post-COVID-19 environment, while others addressed our changed circumstances throughout their statement. Readers may also be interested in my compilation of data for the academic year 2019-2020’s job market as it pertains to Japan and East Asia.

Click on each of the buttons below to view individual discussant comments. Click the darker “How to Submit a Response” button for instructions on contributing your own statement to the virtual roundtable.

 
Laura Miller

Ioannis Gaitanidis  Melinda Landeck

Mark Pendleton  Takeshi Watanabe 

Responses: Round 1

How to Submit a Response