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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnography of a Selected Region - Japan

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year
This course is designed to cover a wide variety of topics relating to Japanese society, beginning from the formation of the modern nation state and its effect on the family, rural, urban and religious life, and concluding with a re-evaluation of the anthropology of Japan in the light of debates over orientalism, and problems of representation.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of the course students will:

  • be able to critically evaluate a range of theories and ethnographic source material relating to Japanese society;
  • be able to locate and use secondary sources relevant to selected topics;
  • will have a grasp of the key debates in the anthropology of Japan. 

This will form a base which will enable their progression to Advanced Ethnographic Study in their following year of study, and/or (providing an overall upper second is achieved at BA2) to an Independent Study Project with a Japanese focus.

Scope and syllabus

One of the main themes running through the course is that of identity – we consider how Japanese national identity may be constructed, or contested. What are the boundaries of Japanese identity? What is meant by “Japanese culture”? What of gendered identities? 

These issues are addressed in a range of contexts including: 

  • the arts, consumption, and popular culture; 
  • the body and controversies in medical anthropology in Japan;
  • debates over education; and migration to and from Japan.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 60%. 2 pieces of coursework will count for 40% (20% each) towards the final mark.

Suggested reading

Recommended Reading:
  • Robertson, Jennifer (ed.) (2005) A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Sugimoto, Yoshio (2003) An Introduction to Japanese Society (2nd edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hendry, Joy (2003) Understanding Japanese Society (3rd edition) London: RoutledgeCurzon.