The University of Iowa

Paradox of Japan and African America

April 10th, 2012

Please join the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies for the following public lecture and workshop on Japan Wednesday and Thursday, April 18 and 19, 2012:

Public lecture: Modernity, Globalization, and the Cultural Politics of Tradition: “Domesticating” Reggae Music in Recessionary Japan
Time: 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Location: 1117 University Capitol Centre
Marvin D. Sterling, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Indiana University, Bloomington

In this presentation, I trace the roots of Japanese reggae from the early 1970s until the present, focusing on the musical productive strategies through which “J-reggae” has come into being. Among these strategies are incorporation of Japanese musical traditions; creative use of the Japanese language (as opposed to patois); and in the way of artistic self-representation, male dancehall performers’ referencing of the figure of the samurai. I argue that these strategies invoke discourses of the traditional that are deeply interlinked with those of modernity in Japan, a modernity shaped by the specter of Western domination that Japanese, like Jamaicans, have long had to negotiate. I focus, however, on the link between these discourses of the traditional and a contemporary ethos of cultural internationalism in recessionary Japan, in which Japanese reggae practitioners imagine global southern countries like Jamaica as simultaneously signs of these artists’ cultural and sociopolitical cosmopolitanism, but also as tradition-bound and thus instructive symbols of Japan’s own potential rebirth.

Workshop: Paradox of Japan and the African America
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Time: 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: 302 Schaeffer Hall
Led by Prof. Nahum Chandler

2:30 Coffee and discussion—led by Nahum Chandler
3:30 Break
3:45 Discussion about contemporary Japan
6:30 Dinner

The recent attention arising from among Japanese scholars on W.E.B. Du Bois's historical writing on Japan, captured by Nahum Chandler, sheds light on the paradoxical nature of the meeting between Japan and the African America. This workshop offers a venue to discuss
1) Du Bois's view on Japan—its paradoxical, yet, strangely logical nature—and, chronologically shifting the lens, 2) Japan's (re)discovery of the African America in the long wake of the US occupation, economic boom, and then, recession, especially in light of the recent influx of non-white immigrants to Japan and the rapidly disappearing traditional "other," zainichi Koreans. We will attempt to grasp a changing ethno- (or race-) scape of Japan, and consider whether re-discovery of the African America on the part of Japan is re-consolidating the so-called Japaneseness or deconstructing it.

The Center has two guests for this event: Dr. Nahum Chandler (PhD Chicago, Anthropology), a leading Du Bois scholar and anthropologist who taught in Japan and now teaches in UC Irvine, and Dr. Marvin Sterling (PhD UCLA, Anthropology), a prominent scholar of Japan, Afro-Asia, performance studies, and African diaspora in Indiana University.

Center-affiliated faculty and graduate students are encouraged to participate in the workshop and discussion. The workshop is open to the public and all are welcome. Please do not hesitate to bring up issues of special accommodation.

Contact: Dongwang Liu, Associate Director, CAPS; Tel: 335-1305