In this course, students will examine Japanese popular culture as it is represented both in Japan and in the West (specifically the U.S). The course aims to develop students’ analytic understanding of Japanese popular culture in order to foster critical awareness of themselves as consumers of culturally representative commodities. To do so, students will explore four major arenas of Japanese popular culture: (1) manga/anime; (2) Japanese cuisine; (3) visual arts; and (4) cute commodities. Discussions and academic readings will situate these arenas within ethnographic, social, and historical contexts. Semiotics, ethnography and genre analysis will serve as methodological frameworks to ground students’ analyses of cultural artefacts and primary sources. While in Tokyo, students will engage in observational ‘data collection’ as well as guided tours of sites representative of the above arenas.
By the end of this course, students will be able to examine how elements/artefacts of popular culture—and specifically Japanese popular culture—are representative of the sociohistorical/cultural contexts within which they were developed and the audiences that consume these elements/artefacts. Through critical readings, discussions, site visits, and course projects, students will be able to:
- Analyze popular cultural artefacts and its composing elements to understand how it embodies the larger culture
- Interpret popular cultural artefacts to understand how they signify audience/consumer identities
- Evaluate representations of popular culture to examine how particular narratives serve to perpetuate cultural ideologies
- Apply methodological frameworks to examine cultural artefacts within one’s own culture
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