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Kirby 107, Tuesday & Thursday 11 – 12:15

Instructor: Allison Alexy // Marquis 38 // 330-5914
office hours: Tuesdays 1 – 4pm

Course Description
For many Americans, Japan represents old, rigid, or extreme gender norms. Japanese people, too, frequently comment on the ways gender and gendered expectations shape contemporary experiences of being Japanese.

This course identifies these stereotypes to ask what gender means and how it is being used in contemporary Japan and to talk about Japan in other contexts. Building from broad definitions of the sex / gender system and queer theory, we will investigate cultural constructions of gender in contemporary Japan through recent ethnographic works. Broadly we will be exploring how gender matters in contemporary Japan, and how Japanese experiences might or might not be culturally specific.

We will approach these questions through anthropological means: reading, discussing, and considering ethnographic approaches to gender studies. Throughout our readings and discussion, we will be considering a diversity of gendered performances.

Key questions and themes include:

Orientalism: What is orientalism? Does it apply to Japanese studies? How does orientalism relate to gender?

National character: What is national character? How has it been applied to Japan? Why and how is it damaging?

Mainstream consciousness: What has constituted “mainstream consciousness” in postwar Japan? How were these norms constructed and how might they be changing in the contemporary moment?

Social change: How does social change happen? How is social change related to power? Are recent changes in gender norms fundamentally changing society?

The sex / gender system: How are sex and gender different? How have they been theorized? How can we use such theories in our readings of ethnography?

Power: How does gender relate to constructions of power? How should we begin to understand and represent power? How have theories of "power" prompted significant thinking in contemporary anthropology?

Resistance: How is resistance possible? What constitutes resistance? How can we determine it? Can people be resisting social norms without intent?