AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 30

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Session 30: Roundtable: East Asian Studies and the 'Real World': Reading Literature in Japanese in a Time of Crisis

Organizer: Adrienne C. Hurley, McGill University, Canada

Discussants: James A. Fujii, University of California, Irvine, USA; Kota Inoue, Washington State University, USA; Nathan Shockey, Bard College, USA

Recent downsizing and restructuring plans at several North American universities have called for the elimination of East Asian Studies programs. Cast as necessary budget crisis management decisions, they in fact reflect the ascendance of a logic of the commodity in which the ability to prove narrowly useful to the expansion of the economy becomes the central arbiter of educational value created through financial instrumentalism. The humanities in particular, especially 'esoteric' fields such as the study of Japanese literature, are deemed 'frivolous' and 'unnecessary', and thus made subject to heavy cuts. This logic displaces liberalist models of education that gave rise to Cold War imperatives such as strategically concerned area studies and replaces interest in problems of alterity with research centered on micro-differentiated consumer habits. The relationship between scholarship and the 'real world' is usurped by the conversion of social relationships to matters of finance, commerce, and trade. Yet for some time now, stark realities of growing inequalities and immiseration, as well as theoretical-critical interventions in the humanities, have prompted many academics to think and practice transformative ways to reforge such connections. The discussants, coming to this roundtable at different stages in our academic careers, will address such trends and challenge notions of a troubling divide between activism and scholarship or the polemic and academic in order to discuss what we can do with our teaching and research in light of the world we live in today. Audience members will be invited to share relevant experiences and contribute to the discussion.