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Elective: Anthropology of Japan


Admission requirements



This course explores anthropological approaches to Japanese society focusing on the theme of the body. Despite a rich tradition of intellectual and religious thought about the body and the senses in East Asia, a sensory anthropology of Japan has only started to emerge in recent years. This new research paradigm challenges many widespread assumptions concerning Japanese culture, highlighting the interconnection of intimacy, precarity, power and creativity. The course examines recent ethnographic works tackling these themes in relation to sensory perception, affect, feelings and emotions. Topics examined include religious and artistic training; aging, illness, and death; political appropriations of bodily metaphors; gender norms and sexuality; emotional technology and the role of nonhuman bodies.

Course objectives

  • Develop a more nuanced understanding of contemporary Japanese society;

  • Demonstrate awareness of past and current research in the anthropology of Japan;

  • Become familiar with current debates in socio-cultural anthropology;

  • Be able to develop and support original arguments based on close interpretation of texts;

  • Learn to formulate appropriate research questions and compare alternative methods to pursue them;

  • Develop the ability to apply anthropological concepts and methods to other disciplinary areas;

  • Acknowledge and address the potential dangers and ethical implications of fieldwork.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

  • Abstract, oral presentation: In-class discussion

  • Paper: Research paper


Participation (Attendance + Assignments): 40 %
Commitment (Close reading discussion): 20%
Original research (Research paper 4000 words): 40%


All course elements must be passed to receive a passing course grade. The course grade is based on the weighted average of all course elements.


There are no resits for the participation and commitment elements. For the final paper, the possibility of a resit applies.

Inspection and feedback

Graded papers will be returned with feedback. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized. How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.

Reading list

Readings will be available through a digital teacher’s shelf. Additional readings will be on reserve in the Asian Library.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.