ASIA 310
Everyday Modernity in Japan Spring 2023
Division II
Cross-listed HIST 317
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

This course asks one overarching question: What is everyday life like in modern Japan? There, one often hears the words “modern” contrasted with “traditional.” When talking about Japan itself, the former is usually coded as “western,” and the latter as “Japanese.” Many Japanese politicians and cultural authorities, with the help of Orientalist westerners, are happy to highlight this distinction to promote notions of Japanese uniqueness. However, though modernization in Japan did usher in tremendous, often traumatic changes, not every aspect of “modern” Japanese life came from the west, and not all western imports were/are unwelcome. Moreover, many cultural imports, such as concrete buildings and the consumption of red meat, are now interwoven into the fabric of daily life in Japan. This course examines the complex history of modernity in Japan within living memory, highlighting on its presence in the daily lives of ordinary residents of Japan. What do people eat? Where do they live? How do they think about themselves and their neighbors? We will start with the Pacific War (1937-45), but focus especially closely on postwar and contemporary Japan. We will first get a sense of the chronology and major themes in Japanese history from this time period, then explore five units, “sites of modernity” that zoom in on different but interrelated aspects of ordinary Japanese life: 1) Total War, 2) The City, 3) Work, 4) Food, 5) Race and Ethnicity. Sources and data will be drawn from scholarly works, videos, movies, websites, maps, brochures and ephemera, as well as other sources. Students will analyze these sources, discuss them and complete various assignments.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 25
Expected: 15-20
Class#: 3999
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Discussion participation, in-class exam, two 6-page analytic essays, job application assignment, syllabus unit design assignment
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: History majors, Asian Studies concentrators, then all others
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
HIST 317 Division II ASIA 310 Division II
Attributes: HIST Group B Electives - Asia

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