Japan Embodied: New Approaches to Japanese Studies
We are pleased to host the Mellon Sawyer Seminar entitled “Japan Embodied.” This four-part seminar seeks to incorporate many perspectives on Japan that focus on the body. We will pursue this study thematically, chronologically, and comparatively. Considering ongoing scholarship on primarily modern and postmodern concepts of the body, we will reflect as well on relevant premodern factors. Our seminar’s focus on Japan allows new perspectives on the study of the body. Body studies are grounded in a Western paradigm that either elaborates or corrects the mind-body dualism that has been a stable feature of Western philosophy since Plato. As an Asian nation, Japan’s views of the body are driven by a metaphysics that does not always separate body from mind, or matter from spirit. To engage the premodern Japanese conception of the body thus challenges Western assumptions about mind-body dualism in ways that helps re-focus and re-define the argument. Not withstanding its affinities with other Eastern cultures, Japan is unique in its enthusiasm for adopting Western culture in the late nineteenth century. As the twentieth century wore on, Japan increasingly integrated western institutions and conceptions—for better or worse. Studying the manner in which Japanese re-evaluated the body (medically, socially, artistically) reveals as much about those western concepts as it does about Japan. Our seminars, therefore, will contribute to the globalization of body studies by decentering what is now a very Euro-centric enterprise.
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