ANTHROPOLOGY/ASIAN STUDIES 338:

VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF MODERN JAPAN

Instructor: Richard Chalfen, Department of Anthropology
Office: 224 Gladfelter Hall -- 204-1413
Class: Wednesday, 2:40-5:10 PM

This course offers an anthropological approach to systems of visual communication that are central to understanding Japanese society and culture. Themes and perspectives from visual anthropology will be applied to visual sign systems of everyday life (writing, clothes, food, etc.), to the prevalence and influences of popular culture emphasizing mass mediated forms as manga (comic books), advertisements, etc. The course will also include ethnographic films about Japanese culture as well a review of how Japanese culture is communicated to mass audiences through classic and contemporary feature films as well as network television. We will try to "unpack" or "unwrap" some of the stereotypic reductions common to superficial knowledge of Japan and Japanese culture. The course aims to explore the visual basis of Japanese society and culture through principles grounded in visual anthropology, or, as we approach this subject at Temple, through an integration of theoretical concerns central to both culture and visual communication.

Students will understand better how a visual anthropologist would seek to study and "know" another culture, specifically Japan -- what would be looked at and what methods would be most suitable to see what has been "made to be seen."

Each student will be evaluated through a late midterm exam and a term project as well as short quizzes and/or essays based on observational exercises. The course should appeal to students in Visual/Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies, Mass Communication as well as Film and Media Arts (FMA).

Required/Suggested Texts:

In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Stony Creek, CT: Leete’s Island Books, 1977 (1933).
Geisha, Gangster, Neighbor, Nun [or Public People, Private People, 1996]by Donald Richie, Tokyo: Kodansha              International, 1987,
Cinematographic Theory and New Dimensions in Ethnographic Film edited by Paul Hockings and Yasuhiro Omori,              Senri Ethnological Studies, No. 24 (1988), Osaka JP: National Museum of Ethnology;
Wrapping Culture--Politeness, Presentation and Power in Japan by Joy Hendry, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.
A Lateral View -- Essays on Contemporary Japan by Donald Richie, Tokyo: The Japan Times, 1987.
Picturing Japaneseness by Darrell Davis, 1997.
Cinematic Landscapes: Observations on the Visual Arts and Cinema of China and Japan ed. by L. C. Ehrlich & D.              Dresser, Univ. Texas Press, ‘94.