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Focus 3+4 (hoorcollege): 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.

In contrast to classic courses on material culture that tend to focus on art and craft objects, this course will concentrate on the mundane objects that constitute the core of daily life in Japan, such as food, shelter, housing, modes of transportation and communication. This approach will enable us to grasp major characteristics of contemporary Japanese society and its historical connections. The course will also provide the students with theoretical background for the study of material culture.

Course objectives

  1. Introducing students to current theoretical scholarship in the field of material culture, emphasizing its interdisciplinary nature.
  2. Exploration of modern Japan from a micro-perspective, illuminating the consequences of historical forces on Japanese society.
  3. Nurturing research skills.


For more information, check the timetable

Mode of instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar

Assessment method

  1. Participation element (attendance, in-class assignments): 20%
  2. Analytical element (individual research project): 40%
  3. Summative element (open-book exam): 40%


Blackboard will be extensively used in this course for individual assignments.

Reading list

Syllabus Material Culture of Modern Japan


Enrollment via uSis is mandatory.

Contact information

Dr. K.J.Cwiertka