SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Recipients of the Sasakawa Studentship Programme to Support the Study of Japanese Development in the UK

The following nominees were awarded £10,000 each for academic year:

2019-2021 (part-time status)

George Nummelin

George Nummelin

Working title of project: Music as a Method for Sustaining and Revitalizing the Ainu Language and Identity

Outline of the project: To investigate how contemporary Ainu music is affecting the position of the Ainu language and Ainu identity, and to document the methods and impact of using Ainu by contemporary amateur and professional performers.

Introduction to research: The Ainu are an indigenous group native to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the island of Sakhalin and the Kurils. After many years of cultural and ethnic marginalisation, and forced and gradual displacement, the Ainu found themselves with a critically endangered language and a disrupted cultural identity, with the lack of an efficacious script for the language compounding issues. As a result, the dissemination of examples of Ainu music and language were often reduced to archival footage or recreations of Ainu culture at tourist locations in Hokkaido. However, in recent years Ainu musicians have begun to gain popularity and media recognition in Japan and abroad, creating a new audience base for both Ainu music and the Ainu language.

I will be engaging with professional and amateur performers and composers, and with the diverse audiences that engage with the music. Additional fieldwork participants will be Ainu language learners of both Ainu and non-Ainu heritage. The aim of my research is to draw on these participants’ experience of learning, creating and performing contemporary Ainu identity through music and language, and to document how these practices can affect the revitalization of cultural traditions, and the Ainu language.

As part of my research I am exploring the potential for the creation of an online collaborative community that will bring researchers, performers, composers, language experts, students from within and outside of the tradition, and educators together to create and share tools to teach the Ainu language and musical traditions. An element of this part of the project is the reflexive ethnography of my own Ainu language learning, and construction and learning of the tonkori.

2019-2020

Lyman Gamberton

Lyman Gamberton

Working title of project: "Each Life Has Its Place": Embodiment, Nation-Work, and Transgender Existence in Contemporary Japan

Outline of the project: This project is an ethnographic study of transgender, transsexual, and gender-nonconforming identities in contemporary Japan, with a particular focus on trans communities in Kyoto and Osaka.

Introduction to research: My research project is an ethnographic examination of transgender, transsexual, and gender non-conforming identities across contemporary Japan, with a particular locative emphasis on Kansai and other regional communities outside of Tokyo. I take a multi-sited, interdisciplinary approach to this topic, involving both queer theory and ethnographic surveys. My main points of interest in this project include the ways in which transgender individuals and communities have situated themselves in relation to the 2003 Gender Recognition Act in Japan; the ontological shift in transgender theory from performativity to embodiment and how (or if) this is expressed practically in everyday trans lives; and the connection between the medical profession and trans individuals and the relationship of both to the Japanese State.

To date, my fieldwork has involved participant observation in several LGBTQ+ community groups in the Kyoto/Osaka area, coupled with individual semi-structured interviews and attendance at events such as Osaka Pride 2018; the Japanese Society for the Study of Gender Identity Disorder’s annual conference in Okayama; and the first-ever Osaka University Queer Film Festival. My own identity as a transgender anthropologist, and my emic experiences of trans communities in the UK and Japan, inform my research and provide a greater richness and depth of engagement in the field. This research comes at a time of great change for, and increasing public awareness of human rights issues affecting, the LGBTQ+ community in Japan: my hope is that it will provide a significant contribution to this conversation both within and outside of the academic sphere.

Emanuela Sala

Emanuela Sala

Working title of project: The Yōtenki

Outline of the project: I investigate various conceptualisation of kami identities, looking at material produced in shrines and temples between the thirteenth and fifteenth century.

Introduction to research: The identities of medieval Japanese deities (by which I mean their agency and origins, their physical aspect, correct worship and geographical location), are often vaguely and contradictorily defined. I think that this vagueness (and sometimes outright confusion) is the result of specific semiotic and affective processes, and I aim to find a way of talking about kami identities that preserves this complexity.

Sannō shintō is the name we now give to a wealth of narratives, doctrinal analyses and artistic depictions related to the deities of the Hie (now Hiyoshi) shrines, in Sakamoto, near lake Biwa. The identity of these deities was conceptualised in a manner based the doctrinal and hermeneutical framework of Tendai Buddhism, which is a Buddhist school founded in Japan by the monk Saichō (767-822) in the eighth century, and based chiefly (but not only) at the Enryakuji, on Mt Hiei, arguably the wealthiest and most influential monastic complex of medieval Japan.

Sannō shintō is a somewhat misleading label: clumped together under the same name, these multifarious narratives might be read as a unified, coherent theological system (possibly also created and diffused “top-down” by powerful religious institutions). Such a reading would however hide the fact that, at least in the middle ages, these narratives were manifold and often in contrast with each other, produced by numerous institutions and lineages which used the identity of the Hie deities to “situate” themselves in the fluid religious world of medieval Japan.

Close examination of material related to sannō shintō compels us to expand a paradigm of Japanese religion which sees it stemming exclusively from extremely powerful temples, and to re-think definitions of kami as local entities; my research makes a case for seeing kami discourses as trans-local and centrifugal forces, both from a geographical and cultural point of view.


2018-2019

Paul Kaletsch

Paul Kaletsch

Working title of the project: The Recent Aftermath of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Tokyo's Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy

Outline of the project: This project investigates the form and political agency of recently "failed" and/or "ended" contemporary East Asian student movements.



 

Maiko Kodaka

Maiko Kodaka

Working title of the project: Female friendly pornography in modern Japan and its fandom culture

Outline of the project:  This research is about female friendly pornography (女性向けAV). By employing an anthropological perspective concerned with gender, mass media, it will address the question of what audiences do with this particular media product from an anthropological perspective concerned with gender and sexuality.




Julia Stolyar

Julia Stolyar

Working title of the project: Proximate but Different: Television Drama Remakes between Japan and South Korea

Outline of the project: Looking at the representation of “Japaneseness” and “Koreanness” through Japanese remakes of Korean drama and vice versa.




2017-2018

Marcello Francioni





Shiori Hiraki

Shiori Hiraki

Thesis title: Onari: Art, Ritual and Power in Early Modern Japan

Outline of the project: Investigation of the activities for socialisation among the warrior class and the use of artefacts in social relations at onari, the shoguns’ visitations to daimyo mansions in the Edo period (1600-1867).





Michiko Suzuki

Michiko Suzuki

Thesis Title: History of Disaster, Recovery, and Humanitarianism: The Japanese Red Cross Society in the Modern World, 1877-1945

Outline of the project: This project explores the wartime humanitarian relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) personnel, and their involvement in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement from 1877 to 1945 in a global historical context.

2016-2017


Lois Barnett
Lois Barnett

Working title of the project: An Investigation of Audience Responses To and Motivations for the Use of Western-Inspired Costume in Japanese Cinema (1923-39)







Robert James Simpkins

Robert James Simpkins 

Working title of the project: 'Playing in Kōenji’: Making street music in a Tōkyō neighbourhood.

Outline of the project: My thesis follows the lives of buskers that perform in Kōenji in central Tōkyō. Buskers’ status as both street performers and part-time workers set them apart from deeply engrained societal norms regarding lifetime employment and render them the subject of an ongoing moral panic about freeterism (underemployed freelancers).   



Michiko Suzuki
Michiko Suzuki

Working title of the project: History of Disaster, Recovery, and Humanitarianism in Wartime Japan, 1931-1945

Outline of the project: My project explores the wartime humanitarian relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) personnel, and their involvement in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.




2015-2016

Lois Barnett
Lois Barnett

Working title of the project: An Investigation of Audience Responses To and Motivations for the Use of Western-Inspired Costume in Japanese Cinema (1923-39)






Robert James Simpkins
Robert James Simpkins 

Working title of the project: 'Playing in Kōenji’: Making street music in a Tōkyō neighbourhood.

Outline of the project: 
My thesis follows the lives of buskers that perform in Kōenji in central Tōkyō. Buskers’ status as both street performers and part-time workers set them apart from deeply engrained societal norms regarding lifetime employment and render them the subject of an ongoing moral panic about freeterism (underemployed freelancers).   

 

Michiko Suzuki
Michiko Suzuki

Working title of the project: History of Disaster, Recovery, and Humanitarianism in Wartime Japan, 1931-1945

Outline of the project: My project explores the wartime humanitarian relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) personnel, and their involvement in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.




2014-2015

  • Lois Barnett (PhD Programme, Centre for Film and Screen Studies)
  • Radu Leca  (PhD Programme, History of Art and Archeology)