Nation and Identity in Contemporary Japan (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

The module will familiarise students with issues that contemporary Japan is facing, focusing on contemporary Japanese society and politics. Some of these issues have been sparking controversy over the years - the module will thus permit students students to engage with these important problems, permitting them to critically question some of the common stereotypes, namely that of Japan as homogeneous and mono-ethnic country with a clear national identity. Students will also be familiarised with relevant theoretical and conceptual readings.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • demonstrate a clear knowledge about ‘issues’ dominating the discourse in 20th/21st century Japanese society

  • demonstrate an increased critical awareness of the domestic debates in Japan with regards to the topics of the modules

  • critically relate those issues to the appropriate theories, questioning the applicability of often eurocentric critical theory to a non-European surrounding


Total of 10 weeks teaching with three consisting of a 2 hour lecture and a one hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The module will be topical rather than following a historical timeline, dealing with separate issues, including:

  • National identity and national symbols
  • Japanese self-images (nihonjinron)
  • The rise and influence of political parties
  • Japanese minorities
  • Japan’s relations to the wider world and vice versa
  • Japan’s memory of the Second World War

Method of assessment

A reaction paper of 1000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7 in the term of teaching (30%); an essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term following teaching (70%).

Suggested reading

Anderson, Benedict (2016): Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Gellner, Ernest (1983): Nations and Nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kolmas, Michal (2019): National Identity and Japanese Revisionism: Abe Shinzō's Version of a Beautiful Japan and its Limits. Abington, New York: Routledge.

Said, Edward W. (1993): Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules