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SOSCI Seminar Performing Arts of Japan


Admission requirements

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Japanese contemporary “performance culture” (Salz 2016) is a kaleidoscopic universe: musicians, actors, and dancers address their audiences from ancient stages and crowded concert halls, take part in rural festivals, design multimedia productions, and support intimate encounters with fans at local venues or in the streets. Rather than supplanting the old repertoires, new genres often borrow from and reorganize established artistic conventions. This course surveys the worlds of Japanese performing arts exploring recurrent ‘patterns of change’, paying particular attention to instrumental, vocal, and bodily aesthetics. Each session pairs a traditional genre to a contemporary one, with examples from kabuki, Nō, and puppet theater, but also from noise, J-pop, vocaloid and ambient music. The case studies illustrate how various qualitative research methods can be used to analyze traditional and contemporary performing arts.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to introduce students to a variety of Japanese performing arts. At the end of the course, students will be able to place traditional and contemporary Japanese performing arts in their historical context and discuss both synchronic and diachronic performance patterns. Students will also become familiar with key issues and concepts in the anthropological study of performance, music, and dance. The course will help students refining academic skills, including group presentations; locating academic sources in English and Japanese; planning a simple fieldwork activity; writing field notes and academic papers.


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Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

  • Participation element (attendance, active participation, postings,): 40%

  • Analytical element (group presentation): 20%

  • Research element (fieldwork assignment, research paper 2,000-2,500 words): 40%

The final grade is the weighted average of all the elements. In order to pass the course, all elements need to receive a passing grade.

There are no ‘resits’ for the participation element. Two deadlines will be provided for the submission of the paper. Students will have an opportunity to make an appointment with the instructor (in person or remotely) to discuss their grade.

Reading list

Many of the assigned readings are featured in the following books, available online through the University Catalogue:

  • Salz, Jonah (ed.). 2016. A History of Japanese Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Available online through the University Catalogue).

  • Tokita, Alison McQueen and David W. Hughes (eds). 2008. The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Aldershot: Ashgate.

  • Hankins, Joseph D., and Carolyn S. Stevens (eds.) 2014. Sound, Space and Sociality in Modern Japan. New York: Routledge.

  • Johnson, Henry, and Jerry C. Jaffe (eds.) 2008. Performing Japan: Contemporary Expressions of Cultural Identity. Folkestone: Global Oriental.

Additional readings will be made available through Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. A. Giolai