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SC Lecture Material Culture of Modern Japan


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for the course. Familiarity with the basics of modern Japanese history is assumed. Students without such knowledge will receive advice from the instructor on how to catch up.


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) the global spread of new forms of Japanese material culture that had emerged as a result of domestication of foreign elements.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to explore contemporary Japan from a micro-perspective, illuminating the impact of historical forces on everyday life. 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. Finally, the course is intended to help student to develop academic skills, in particular critical analysis of textual and visual sources.


See Timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours=140 hours

  • Lectures: 12 weeks x 2 hours = 28 hours

  • Preparation for group presentations: 5 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature (12 weeks x 5 hours): 60 hours

  • Preparation exam: 45 hours

  • Exam(s): 2 hours

Assessment method

  1. Participation element (group presentations with individual essay of 500 words): 30%
  2. Analytical element (final exam): 70%

In order to pass the course the students must receive a passing grade (6 or higher) for the exam. The final mark will be determined as the weighted average of the two elements. Students who fail the participation element will have an opportunity to submit a 1000 word essay.

Resit for the final exam will be scheduled.

Debriefing exam:
Students may make an individual appointment with the instructor within 30 days of the announcement of the exam grades in order to view their exam.


Students will have access to lecture slides, links, readings and the syllabus through Blackboard . It will also be used for uploading written assignments.

Reading list

Readings will be available for download from Blackboard or via the University Library.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Contact information: Prof. dr. K.J. Cwiertka