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Focus 3+4: Constructing social problems, scandals and controversy in Japan


Admission requirements

No extra admission requirements.


This course will deal with selected “social problems”, controversies and scandals in Japan, departing from a social constructionist perspective. The problems and controversies (etc.) that will be addressed include child abuse, NEETs, “compensated dating”, “internet suicide pacts”, etc.. Rather than looking at the nature of these matters, the focus will be on how certain events, acts and circumstances come to be defined as problematic, controversial or schandalous. We will focus on the “players” (including media and law enforcement), social/infrastructural backgrounds, as well as the tool by means of which issues are raised and named: language.
Given this importance of language, foci of interest include the interaction between structural and semiotic dimensions of power (e.g. injustice, abuse) as reflected for example in institutional, political, gender and media discourses, and political-economic or cultural change (e.g. gengo mondai 言語問題 ‘language problems’ in contemporary Japanese society).

The course alternates between reading and opportunities to analyse limited examples of data. Students will gain:

  • a basic understanding of social and cultural contexts of selected “social problems” in Japan, through both a contextual and critical analysis of discourse;

  • an ability to summarise and discuss readings in the field(s).

Contact information

Dr. E.D. Herber