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HUM Seminar Japan's Asian Empire, Images and Realities


Admission requirements


This course explores both the realities and representations of Japan’s colonial empire and its aftermath as part of a broader understanding of nation-building, culture and power in modern Japan and Asia, past and present. Japan’s colonial and wartime past remains a “hot button” issue in Asia, and debates over this history continue to haunt Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors. Representations of this past can tell us much about the political “uses of the past” in struggles over national identity, nation-building, and international relations, but often avoid the complexities of history. The remarkably varied experiences and legacies of Japan’s colonizations in Asia reflect the diversity and complexity of colonialism and of modern Asia itself. Beginning in the 19th century and ending in the present, this course seeks to explore both the complexity and diversity of this experience, and the mechanisms—in history writing, popular memory, literature and film—through which it has been (mis-) represented, used, and abused in Japan itself as well as in East and Southeast Asia.

Course objectives

To become familiar with the diverse cultural, social, and political dynamics of Japan’s colonial and military interactions with its Asian neighbors as reflected and represented in written and visual media, hereby nurturing an awareness of the inherently political, dynamic, and contentious nature of historical narration and representation. Furthermore to develop and enhance skills in critical reading of academic texts, and in written and oral presentations on academic subjects.


See timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation element (attendance, active participation, web postings, session leadership): 40%

  • Analytical element (written fieldwork proposal 1,000 words): 20%

  • Research element (fieldwork assignment): 40%


The final grade is established by determining the weighted average of all elements. In order to pass the course, all elements must receive a passing grade (6 or higher).


There are no ‘resits’ for the participation element. Two deadlines will be provided for the submission of the paper.

Inspection and feedback

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

Reading list

Course readings will be posted on Brightspace


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof