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Lecture Focus 3+4: Material Culture of Modern Japan


Admission requirements



Materiality is fundamental for the understanding of every society and culture. At work, at rest, at play, whether other people are involved or not, material things accompany the activities of our body and provide the environment for everything we do. We also express ourselves through the way we live with and use objects.

This course will focus on objects that constitute the core of daily life in contemporary Japan, from modes of transportation and communication to food and clothing. We will concentrate on two processes: 1) Westernization of Japanese material culture since the early twentieth century; and 2) a recent phenomenon of the global spread of new forms of Japanese material culture that had emerged as the result of Westernization.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to explore contemporary Japan from a micro-perspective, illuminating the impact of historical forces on its cultural transformation. Furthermore, the course will introduce students to material culture studies, a multidisciplinary field of study that focuses on the relationship between human beings and material objects. Each session will include a brief reference to a theoretical approach that relates to the empirical material. Finally, the course is intended to help student to develop academic skills, in particular critical analysis of sources and writing a paper.


Tuesday, 11-13

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation element (reading diary): 20%
Summative element (online upload): 40%
Analytical element (final paper): 40%



Reading list

Articles and book chapters specified in each section will be available for download via Blackboard or the University Library.


Enroll on time through uSis.

Contact information

Prof. dr. K.J. Cwiertka
tel. 0715272599