Seminar Schedule

The seminar meetings scheduled from September 2020 and February 2021 will involve readings and discussions about topics that are thematically unified and accessible to faculty across any Japan-related discipline. Information on the thematic focus is outlined in more detail in the schedule below and a bibliography of seminar readings is also found at All meeting schedules and activities are tentative and are subject to change, but Meetings 1-4 are intended to run from 10am-noon, and Meeting 5 will run from 10am-3pm. Currently (September 2020), all meetings are scheduled to take part virtually but there is a possibility that February’s meeting may include an in-person component.

Due to the limited access to the CUNY campuses in Fall 2020, all Fall 2020 seminar meetings will take place virtually (via Zoom). The February half-day seminar may be in a blended style depending on circumstances.

Seminar 1

  • Meeting 1: Friday, September 11, 2020 – 10:00am-noon
    • Topic: Introduction: Seminar Goals and Collective Assessment of CUNY’s Japanese Studies
    • Invited Speaker:
      • Alex Rogals, Adjunct Professor of Japanese Culture, Hunter College, and Doctoral Candidate at UHawaii-Manoa [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Japan Society: Incorporating a NYC Institution Into Your Syllabus
        Since 1907, the New York Japan Society has served as the United States’ premiere institution for Japanese-American cultural exchange. Japan Society is a go-to resource for Japanese art, culture, business and education, and continues to bring one-of-a-kind programming to audiences both here in NY and across the globe. This presentation will introduce the various resources available to CUNY teachers that Japan Society offers, discuss some of the online opportunities available in the coming year, and offer suggestions for ways to incorporate Japan Society programming into your syllabus.

    • Readings:
      1. Read the brief history on Japan Society and its mission statement at
      2. Also watch the video introduction of Nomura Mansai, who was supposed to be the orchestrator of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics (
    • Homework (to complete before OCTOBER seminar):
      1. Look at the list of Japan Studies classes at CUNY (located on our website:
      2. Find out more about the classes on your campus. For each class listed, find out the following information and come to the October seminar with a brief report outlining:
        • If each class is currently being offered, and if not how often it typically runs
        • Are you able to get a copy of the syllabus or equivalent information to include in final database?
      3. You may need to reach out to department chairs and/or individual faculty for some of this information, and we recognize that some information may be impossible to obtain. The idea here is to start fleshing out the information we have so that we eventually all help contribute to a more robust database of Japan-related courses/faculty across CUNY. Send any materials that you obtained to Joanna Smolenski ( and Tomonori Nagano (
      4. Please also read the Miriam Silverberg article (link below) prior to Dr. Pflugfelder’s presentation on October 9th.
    • The recording of Alex Rogals’s talk (password is required)

Seminar 2

  • Meeting 2: Friday, October 9, 2020 – 10:00am-noon
    • Topic: Modern Japan — The Imperial Era (Olympics and Gender)
    • Invited Speaker
      • Dr. Gregory Pflugfelder, Associate Professor, Columbia University presenting: “Searching for the Male Flapper in Imperial Japan (1920s-1930s)” [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Dr. Gregory Pflugfelder, Associate Professor of Japanese History and Gender Studies at Columbia University, will be presenting on his newest research about “modern boys” in late-Taisho and early-Showa era in Japan.

    • Readings:
      1. Kietlinski, R. (2016). Japan in the Olympics, the Olympics in Japan. Education About ASIA, 21(2). [download the article ]
      2. Silverberg, M. (1991). The Modern Girl as Militant. In G. Bernstein (Ed.), Recreating Japanese Women: 1600-1945. (pp. 239-266). [download the article ]
    • Homework (to complete before NOVEMBER meeting):
      • This month we want to brainstorm ideas on how to promote Japanese Studies for both CUNY BA students interested in this path, as well as for CUNY students broadly. Please jot down some notes to share at the November meeting.
      • Go to the CUNY BA website ( Write down any questions about or suggestions for the CUNY BA. Below are some examples of questions or suggestions:
        1. How to best promote Japanese Studies for CUNY BA students
        2. How to promote Japanese Studies or Japan-related courses on your campus through ePermit/CUNY BA
        3. What entails to be the faculty mentor in the CUNY BA Program

Seminar 3

  • Meeting 3: Friday, November 13, 2020 – 10:00am-noon
    • Topic: Demographic Crisis and Disability in Contemporary Japan
    • Invited Speaker
      • Mark Bookman, University of Pennsylvania [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Demographic Crisis and Institutional Reform:
        How the Olympic and Paralympic Games Helped Reshape Disability Welfare in Japan

        The preparation, execution, and aftermath of mega events like the Paralympics can create dramatic shifts in disability politics on both local and global scales. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Japan, where the games have driven ‘accessibility booms’ on two separate occasions. Physical and social differences between Japanese para-athletes and their foreign counterparts during the 1964 games triggered a series of events that eventually led activists and policymakers to reshape the nation’s infrastructure by installing elements of barrier-free architecture in the 1970s. Now, a second wave of accessible development is underway in connection with the 2020 games, in which domestic pressures like an aging population, declining birthrate, and shrinking workforce are guiding the production of technologies that will transform international ideas about inclusion. Despite these developments, or perhaps because of them, many persons with disabilities remain unable to access education, employment, and other services needed for social participation in Japan.
        In this presentation, I use the 1964 and 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo as case studies to consider why activist and legislative interventions do not always help persons with disabilities (and often necessitate further interventions). Drawing on a wide range of sources, including, but not limited to, magazines, government records, and documents from social welfare organizations, I demonstrate how lack of coordination between specialists operating in various fields can create precarious conditions in which persons with disabilities are put at risk. To mitigate such risks and facilitate access, I argue, we must imagine new modes of collaboration.

    • Readings
      • Bookman, M. (2020). The Rise and Fall of Institutions for Persons with Disabilities in Postwar Japan. Unpublished manuscript.
        [download the article ]
      • Bookman, M. (2019). An Olympics crowdsourcing project may be the answer to making Japan a more accessible country. The Japan Times [link to the article ]
      • “Paralympics as Possibility” 2019 Fulbright TED Talk by Mark Bookman. [link to the TED talk ]
    • Homework (to complete before the December meeting):
      • Start thinking about future collaborations/bridge-building with fellow seminar participants.
    • The recording of Mark Bookman’s talk (password is required)

Seminar 4

  • Meeting 4: Friday, December 11, 2020 – 10:00am-noon
    • Topic: A Brief History of Japanese Studies in the United States; Language and Gender in Relation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games
    • Invited Speakers
      • Miriam Kingsberg Kadia, University of Colorado [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Cold War Collaborations: Japanese Studies in the United States, 1945-1960
        Traditional genealogies of Japanese studies in the United States in the early Cold War (c. 1945-1960) typically understand the field as a classic example of “area studies.” Area studies aimed to advance both theoretical and empirical knowledge of nations and regions through intensive language preparation, on-the-ground research, and the incorporation of local viewpoints and interpretations. Encompassing the human and social science and humanities disciplines, it has been represented as the primary intellectual approach to the developing and decolonizing world after 1945. Some contemporary critics have discussed area studies as an attempt to perpetuate the power structures of imperialism, replacing overt political control with indirect attempts to foster loyalty to the United States through the creation of knowledge.
        The area studies interpretation of Japanese studies privileges the work of a small group of (mostly) American men who often studied the Japanese language in army or navy academies during World War II, served in the U.S. occupation of Japan between 1945 and 1952, and returned to the academy with the interest, background, and connections needed to develop a new field. Individually these scholars are remembered as heroes: explorers of an intellectual terra incognita, facilitators of a new Japanese social science and humanist tradition, and progenitors of an American understanding of Japan that continues to resonate today.
        Breaking with these conventions, this talk argues that the development of Japanese studies in the United States depended critically on the preexisting knowledge, involvement, and support of Japanese scholars and institutions. In addition to the work of American social scientists and humanists before and during World War II, early twentieth-century research by Japanese scholars came to form the bedrock of Cold War-era U.S. knowledge of Japan. Early postwar U.S. field research projects in Japan depended critically on Japanese translators, local experts, and coordinators. Japanese universities and other institutions hosted American students, embedded them in local intellectual networks, and offered teaching opportunities and other sources of funding for their work.
        By illuminating the underacknowledged role of Japanese scholars as agents as well as objects of Japanese studies in the U.S., this article challenges the depiction of Japanese studies as area studies in the classic sense. It also suggests the need to rethink the very construct of area studies, highlighting the ways in which genealogies of knowledge mischaracterize the relationship between American researchers and their on-the-ground collaborators.

      • Daniel Connor, Dennis Looney, and Natalia Lusin, Modern Language Association [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        MLA’s Resources for Japan Studies
        This session emphasizes MLA support and resources for Japanese Studies with some information on our support for Asian Studies generally. The first part of our session, organized by MLA Programs and Research will look at our study of enrollments in Japanese and other Asian languages. The second part will look at current coverage of Japanese literature, language, culture, and scholarship in the MLA International Bibliography and focus on our ongoing efforts to expand that coverage through our field bibliography and fellowship programs. We will share our Japanese-language tutorial video introducing the MLAIB.

    • Readings:
      • Kingsberg-Kadia, M. (2019). Transnational Knowledge, American Hegemony: Social Scientists in U.S.-Occupied Japan. In J. Krige (Ed.), How Knowledge Moves: Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology. (pp. 149–174). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [download the article ]
      • 「MLA国際文献目録」とは何か? ( [Japanese] or “What Is the MLA International Bibliography?” ( [English]
    • Homework:
    • The recording of Miriam Kingsberg Kadia’s talk (password is required)
    • The recording of MLA’s talk (password is required)

Final Seminar

  • Meeting 5: Friday, February 5, 2021- 10:00am – 3:00pm / Five-hour intensive session
    • Topic: Final seminar meeting & participants’ presentations; The Future of Japan (environment, public health, disaster management)
    • Invited Speakers
      • Jessamyn Abel (Pennsylvania State University) [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Borrowed Spectacle: Olympic Symbolism in Political Battles
        During the bidding and preparation for three Tokyo Olympiads—the cancelled 1940 Games, the successful 1964 Games, and the postponed 2020 Games—political actors mobilized Olympic symbolism and rhetoric for particular purposes. Juxtaposing three examples of Olympic planning for a single city in disparate historical circumstances shows the flexibility and persistence of the particular opportunities and pressures created by the Olympics’ enduring symbolism and their impact on diplomacy and domestic political contests. The political usefulness of the Olympics emerges from the ambiguous politics of the Olympic movement; from the nested spatiality of an event overseen by an international organization for a global audience, but organized along national lines and hosted by a single city; and from the spectacle of the event, which ensures rapt attention, both at home and around the world.

      • Hilary Holbrow (Indiana Univeristy Bloomington) [download the flyer ]
        See more information about the guest speaker’s presentation

        Training Foreign Workers, Cultivating Bias? TITP and Immigration to Japan
        Japan’s Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) brings young people from other parts of Asia to Japan to fill menial jobs on a temporary basis. The program has grown rapidly, and currently represents 14% of all migration to Japan. Proponents argue that TITP allows Japan to both mitigate labor shortages and circumvent the challenges of integrating low-paid foreigners as long-term members of Japanese society; critics highlight how the program puts interns at risk for trafficking and exploitation. Despite their disagreements about TITP’s merits or demerits, both groups depict the program as self-contained and separate from the broader employment landscape. In this presentation, I will show that not only is TITP deeply integrated with the Japanese economy, but also that this integration negatively affects other foreign workers in Japan, regardless of their employment status. Consequently, the persistence of the program has troubling implications for Japan’s ability to integrate migrants as it expands the number and type of foreign workers it admits.

    • Readings
      • Browse this two-part special issue of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus on “Japan’s Olympic Summer Games – Past and Present.”. Pick any article that interests you and try to incorporate it into our dialogue during the seminar meeting.
    • Other preparations
      • Please be prepared to provide a 2-3 minute “elevator pitch” overview of yourself again, a re-introduction if you will. We want to remind one another of our research and teaching foci so that we may discuss points of possible “bridge building” in the future.
      • Students who have graduated from and/or are currently pursuing Japanese Studies in the CUNY BA program join the meeting. You might be asked about your research and/or classes
    • The recording of Jessamyn Abel’s talk (password is required)
    • The recording of Hilary Holbrow’s talk (password is required)