Rethinking Labor: Work and Livelihood in Japan

Man sitting at a table


The UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies presents its fifth annual graduate student conference: Rethinking Labor: Work and Livelihood in Japan. The conference will explore how historically situated configurations of “work,” “labor,” and “livelihood” operate in Japan ranging from the household to the transnational. We invite proposals for papers from current graduate students from all disciplines that use conceptions, manifestations, and representations of labor as a framework in the study of Japan across all historical periods.

Labor has and continues to be an important analytic in Japan Studies as it illuminates diverse phenomena such as macro-economic change, state-society relations, and industrial development, among other topics. Yet, drawing upon recent approaches in anthropology, sociology, and legal studies, we also seek to invoke the concepts of work and livelihood, which can emphasize subjectivity, sociality and the material conditions to sustaining life in ways that complement and complicate previous studies focusing on traditional concepts of labor. While we welcome papers focusing on labor configurations in Japan such as the salaryman, craftsman, guilds, and factory and day laborers, we also invite papers that reframe what constitutes “labor” by invoking “work” and “livelihood” as a means of addressing categories such as domestic structures, underemployment, volunteerism, care and unwaged labor, among other topics.

This year's keynote speaker is Anne Allison (Duke University), author of Precarious Japan (2013).


Geballe Room | 220 Stephens HallStephens Hall
The Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities

Stephens Hall is located in the central part of the campus near Sather Tower (the clock tower). It is a cream-colored stucco building with a large arched breezeway in its center.

From the south entrance at Telegraph Avenue, proceed across the plaza to Sather Gate and turn right, walking up the hill past Wheeler Hall and South Hall. Stephens Hall is on your right, directly south of the clock tower. Once you are in in the breezeway of Stephens Hall, take the door on the right, walk through the hallway, and exit to the terrace; walk across the terrace to the Center’s entrance.


FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2018

2:00-2:10pm | Opening Remarks: Dana Buntrock and CJS Graduate Student Conference Organizers

2:10-3:40pm PANEL 1 | Political Messaging of Labor

Discussant: Steve Vogel, UC Berkeley

Moderator: Benjamin Bartlett, UC Berkeley

  • Frank Mondelli, Stanford University | Quotidian Labor: Narrative Political Framing in Japanese Politics and Twitter
  • Shelby Oxenford, UC Berkeley | The Labor of Advertising and the Work of Memory post-3.11
  • Jun Hee Lee, University of Chicago | In Chorus with Japanese Laborers: Celebrating the Miike Strike and the Laborer-Composer Ideal in the Utagoe Movement

3:40-4:00pm BREAK

4:00-5:30pm KEYNOTE LECTURE | Matter of Death in Solitary Times

Anne Allison, Duke University

With a high aging/low birthrate population and the rate of marriage and even coupling on the decline in Japan, the primary social unit is moving from the family to the individual. As more and more Japanese live alone, they also face the prospect of death without those who once assumed the responsibility of caring for the dead. Seeing this as a limit case for sociality, the talk engages new practices in Japan that cater to mortuary self-care by the to-be-deceased themselves. When grievability itself becomes a matter assigned the individual for a future when already dead, what precisely happens to the form of the social?

5:30-5:35pm Day 1 Closing Remarks

5:35-6:30pm Reception at the Townsend Center terrace


10:00-11:30 PANEL 2 | Dysfunctions of Labor

Discussant: Anne Allison, Duke University

Moderator: Justus Watt, UC Berkeley

  • Ramsey Ismail, UC San Diego | Not Working, Working from Home: The Work of Hikikomori
  • Felix Jawinski, Leipzig University | Continuities and Struggles of Nuclear Laborers in Japan
  • Gao Ming, National University of Singapore | Chinese Migrant Workers, Prostitution, and Opium in Japanese Manchukuo

11:30-11:45 BREAK

11:45-1:15 PANEL 3 | Representational Work and the Mediation of Labor

Discussant: Daniel O'Neill, UC Berkeley

Moderator: Shoufu Yin, UC Berkeley

  • Justus Watt, UC Berkeley | From Livelihood to Labor: Ie no Hikari and Economic Rationalization in Rural Japan, 1925-1935
  • Hannah Airriess, UC Berkeley | Staging the Bright Life: White-Collar Cinema in Japan's Era of High Economic Growth
  • Drew Korschun, University of Colorado | Reading Nakajima Atsushi and Robert Louis Stevenson Through the Lens of Colonial Economy in the Pacific Islands

1:15-2:00 BREAK

2:00-3:30 PANEL 4 | Labor's Production Beyond the Material

Discussant: Jonathan Zwicker, UC Berkeley

Moderator: Joel Thielen, UC Berkeley

  • Thomas Gimbel, University of Chicago | Philosophy, Sweat, and Flowers: Thought and Labor at Sengan-en
  • Xiaoyi Yang, Bard Graduate Center | Appropriating Zhangzhou Blue-and-White Ceramics in Japan
  • Thiam Huat Kam, Rutgers University | The Immaterial Labor of Materialization: Fans’ Dōjin Activity in Contemporary Japan

3:30-3:50 BREA

3:50-5:00 ROUNDTABLE: Labor in Medieval & Early Modern Japan

Lead Discussant: Brendan Morley, UC Berkeley

Moderator: Hannah Airriess, UC Berkeley

  • Kaitlin Forgash, UC Berkeley
  • Joel Thielen, UC Berkeley
  • Shoufu Yin, UC Berkeley

5:00-5:10 Closing Remarks: Dana Buntrock and Conference Organizers


PANEL 1 | Political Messaging of Labo

Frank Mondelli, Stanford University
Quotidian Labor: Narrative Political Framing in Japanese Politics and Twitter

The 2017 House of Representatives election represented a dramatic chapter in Japanese politics. Prime Minister Abe Shinzō called the snap election in the midst of several crises and scandals, while the oppositional Democratic Party was effectively replaced by two new parties, Kibō no Tō and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP). The formation of Kibō no Tō was seen by media outlets and party insiders as a viable challenge to Abe’s political power, but the party performed below expectations. In a surprise win, the CDP secured enough seats to become the leading opposition party.

In this talk, I consider the framing, positioning, and stance of the two parties’ engagement on Twitter. While the CDP aggressively communicated with online followers, Kibō no Tō’s online activities were fewer and less interactive. The language and sustained tone of the CDP’s tweets utilized more of what I call narrative political framing to make the political process seem accessible through an at-times strikingly informal narrative of the hard-working life of the party’s founder, Edano Yukio. Edano’s daily labor is portrayed in similar terms to salarymen, reifying the socioeconomic conditions of Japanese citizens and fostering an inclusive atmosphere for potential supporters. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis, I demonstrate the effectiveness of a quotidian-style framing of the political process, which helped the party appear more approachable to voters and portray certain ideological leanings as based in everyday experience.

Shelby Oxenford, UC Berkeley
The Labor of Advertising and the Work of Memory post-3.11

In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt distinguishes between labor and work. She defines labor as an infinite, cyclical effort which produces something to be consumed and used up, whereas work is a finite process, which produces something durable and permanent. My paper takes up this distinction between labor and work as a useful analytic for considering two case studies of commemoration of the Northeastern Japan triple disasters of March 11, 2011 (3.11): Yahoo Japan’s “Search for 3.11” donation/ad campaign, and the Rias Ark Museum of Art of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture’s archive and permanent exhibit, “Record of the Great East Japan Disasters and the History of Tsunami Disasters.”

Yahoo Japan’s campaign, which began in 2014, donates ten yen each time someone searches the phrase “3.11” via Yahoo Japan on the anniversary of the disasters. In March of 2017, the online campaign was accompanied by a massive ad installation mounted on the Sony Building in Ginza, which sought to show the height of the tsunami waves in the northeast relative to the environs of Ginza. From March 23, 2011 to December 31, 2012, archivists from the Rias Ark Museum of Art collected photographs and materials from the surrounding devastated community in order to document the disaster. On April 3, 2013, the museum opened a permanent exhibit which showcases these photographs, debris, and commentary of the archivists.

I argue both the labor of the corporate ad campaign and the work of the museum’s exhibit raise troubling questions about the ethics of commemoration and remembrance. The donation/ad campaign sanitizes the reality of disaster and recovery by turning it into a simple search operator generating ten yen. 3.11 here becomes a useful, exchangeable commodity. While the museum’s exhibit seeks to truthfully render the reality of disaster, it risks aestheticizing disaster via photographs and objects which blur the line between documentation and art (sometimes accomplishing this by creating speculative narratives around found objects). In reading these two cases alongside each other, I consider the ethics of disaster narratives in the context of the labor of advertising and the work of memory.

Jun Hee Lee, University of Chicago
In Chorus with Japanese Laborers: Celebrating the Miike Strike and the Laborer-Composer Ideal in the Utagoe Movement

The utagoe movement arose, by official account, in 1948 under the leadership of Seki Akiko (1899-1973), former chair of the Proletarian Musician’s League (1929-1934) and a musical authority among Japanese Communist Party-line cultural circles in the late 1940s.  Utagoe quickly gained momentum in the mid-1950s as it called for establishing a new body of music that reflected the livelihood (seikatsu) of the ordinary Japanese – particularly the laborers. As utagoe began aligning with labor and peace movements through the decade, one culturally and politically conscious laborer from northern Kyushu found his calling in utagoe: Araki Sakae (1924-1962), a second-generation coal miner in Miike.  Araki would dedicate the last ten years of his life to utagoe, partaking in the Miike coal miners’ strike between 1959 and 1960 with his own songs. This paper examines ways in which utagoe has subsequently celebrated Araki Sakae as an ideal laborer-composer (rōdōsha sakkyokuka) figure who was at once an earnest, politically conscious laborer and a creative soul. By exploring specific manners in which utagoe posited the Miike strike as a national struggle and established Araki and his songs as landmarks for utagoe’s timeline, this paper demonstrates how utagoe produced and maintained a narrative of continued struggle (tatakai) for better livelihood, emphasizing utagoe’s confrontations with “decadent culture,” “American imperialism,” and “monopoly capital”.  Utagoe’s continued celebration of Araki today bespeaks the endurance of such perspective, in which continued struggles by Japanese laborers occupy a quintessential place.

PANEL 2 | Dysfunctions of Labor

Ramsey Ismail, UC San Diego
Not Working, Working from Home: The Work of Hikikomori

In 2005, seven people in two locations were found to have died of carbon monoxide assisted suicide just hours apart in Japan's Tochigi prefecture. Their bodies were accompanied by notes indicating that they had all committed suicide together, fulfilling a pact they made online. The media was quick to raise two questions: How had society failed these individuals, for whom assisted suicide had become a reality? And how had these individuals failed themselves, to reach such a desperate position? Moreover, the story took on a narrative of its own over popular media. The victims had apparently found a missing sense of belonging in death and, citing common reasons in suicide forums on the internet including, “I am tired of living,” Japanese media interpreted the event as a further example of abandonment in a stagnant social economy. This paper begins by further investigating the questions raised by the media – in what ways did normative social expectations (gendered, sexual, and socioeconomic) fail the individuals who committed suicide? Far from exception, loneliness, social exclusion, and discussions of belonging have become common tropes in conversations about Japan. However, where much scholarship focuses on suicidal Japanese bodies as sites and symptoms of social crisis, my research probes for the germs of alternate socialities. How might group suicide queer our understandings of both normativity and belonging? What can group suicide illustrate about the trappings of belonging’s cruelly optimistic nature? And finally, how might rejecting belonging, via suicide or other forms of social withdrawal, serve as a site for redefining the parameters of normative, or at least livable life?

Felix Jawinski, Leipzig University
Continuities and Struggles of Nuclear Laborers in Japan

The year 2018 will be the 65th anniversary of the event, when President Eisenhower smoothed the way for the commercial usage of nuclear energy and its “peaceful” production worldwide. Ever since, not only engineers but also many other skilled and unskilled workers were necessary to first build, and later maintain and repair those facilities. The construction of NPPs in the countryside not only made the local economy and the social structure flourish in an unseen way, but additionally made it possible for many of the workers to refuse to become a dekasegi worker. Nonetheless, they were now often forced to work in a system of subcontractors that ensured the bright and enlightened life of the people in the urban centers on the one hand, and on the other hand confronting them with the risk of losing everything in case of an emergency. This paper will therefore analyze the infrastructure and workplace conditions of workers of the nuclear industry. It will ask what kind of obstacles the workers face when working on a radioactive construction site, how this influenced their livelihood and how they tried and still try to establish a support system to improve these problems. Regarding the latter, different attempts of labor union activities and their struggle with the so-called “nuclear village” (genshiryoku mura) shall be introduced. The hypothesis of this paper is that even though many changes were promulgated in the past decades, many continuities to the disfavor of the workers can be observed.

Gao Ming, National University of Singapore
Chinese Migrant Workers, Prostitution, and Opium in Japanese Manchukuo

In the proposed study, I will focus on the migrant workers (coolies), who moved to Japan controlled Manchukuo from 1905 onwards until the demise of the Japanese empire. I seek to examine the contradictory regulative apparatus applied to different groups of people in Japanese Manchukuo, especially coolies, prostitutes, as well as opium dealers and traffickers of different nationalities. These actors in the empire played their respective role in contributing to the construction of Manchukuo. In particular, I will look at policies and regulations applied to them. By following the process and changes in policies and regulations, I will trace the varied logics behind these regulations and policies back to the construction of the Japanese infrastructure in the Kwantung Leased Territories in 1905, and until the fall of the Manchukuo in 1945. This project also explores tensions that arose among institutions as a result of monetary interest conflicts; changing attitudes towards the governing and managing of migrant workers (their bodies), prostitutes, and soldiers on the ground as opium revenue was incorporated into public policy; as well as the propaganda and ideology surrounding healthy bodies among civilian population and the military. In short, this study centers on the Japanese imperialist logics and mechanisms of power in Manchukuo. Another important feature of my research is my use of primary and second source materials in English language as well as all major East Asian languages sources (Chinese, Japanese and Korean).

PANEL 3 | Representational Work and the Mediation of Labor

Justus Watt, UC Berkeley
From Livelihood to Labor: Ie no Hikari and Economic Rationalization in Rural Japan, 1925-1935

The pervasive economic and social instability of the interwar years called into question long-standing patterns of economic thought and practice in rural Japan, as an emergent discourse centered on economic rationality and resource efficiency emerged to challenge diligence and thrift as the fundamental values underlying the socioeconomic framework of rural society. Although the conventional morality of the village community with its explicit focus on diligence and frugality continued to shape how people thought and behaved, a recognition of the incompatibility of older conceptions of the household economy with the changed economic circumstances of the time created a space in which new ways of thinking about the rural household economy predicated on an efficient utilization of resources and rational consumption habits emerged and spread. These ideas did not fundamentally disavow older practices based on the moral value of diligence and thrift, as these ideas continued to resonate in powerful ways. However, efforts to apply a modern economic sensibility focused on rationality and efficiency led to a critique of these concepts as foundational elements in rural economic thought. Contributors to Ie no hikari during these years sought to refine conventional understandings of the moral value of diligent labor and self-sacrificing austerity as ineffective economic strategies that produced more harm than good, contrasting them with the economic values of efficient resource utilization and rational consumption as the keys to improving the economic standing of rural households.

Hannah Airriess, UC Berkeley
Staging the Bright Life: White-Collar Cinema in Japan's Era of High Economic Growth

My paper focuses on Japanese cinema about white-collar workers, arguing these films foreground the affective register of white-collar work as a novel and necessary component to economic advancement for the corporation and the nation in the era of high economic growth (1955-1972). Following Eva Illouz’s notion of “emotional capitalism” and Michael Hardt’s analysis of affective labor and the production of “collective subjectivities” through labor practice, I contend that the contested affective terrain of white-collar work in these films mediates notions of efficiency and rationality associated with a “modern” national subjectivity in postwar Japan.I situate the white-collar worker within a domestic and transnational theorization of models of work through fiction and social science texts, focusing on films that dramatize the introduction of American management discourse, such as Human Relations discourse, into Japanese workplaces. I argue that one text, in particular, the popular musical You Can Succeed, Too! (Kimi mo shusse ga dekiru, 1964), reveals the transnational negotiation of affective codes in both its articulation of the place of emotion in the workplace and within the film’s affective impact. The film modulates cinematic affect through the explicit incorporation of Hollywood musical codes and engages the tension between nation-specific management practices in producing a “modern” working subject.

Drew Korschun, University of Colorado
Reading Nakajima Atsushi and Robert Louis Stevenson Through the Lens of Colonial Economy in the Pacific Islands

In his South Pacific tales, Nakajima Atsushi finds inspiration from British writer Robert Louis Stevenson, much like Japan trailed behind its Western imperial counterparts in the conquest of lands and peoples. This paper examines, through the lens of colonial economy, Stevenson’s 1891 short story “The Bottle Imp” and Nakajima’s 1942 story “Happiness” (“Kōfuku”). “The Bottle Imp” tells the story of Keawe, a Hawaiian man who travels to California and buys a bottle that promises to grant its owner any wish, at the price of eternal damnation. Stevenson orients the story toward Hawaii’s soon-to- be colonizer for the morally dubious enrichment of its protagonist and, like a fable, lightheartedly warns the reader of the dangers of excess wealth in the absence of labor. The milieu of “The Bottle Imp” also implicitly reflects Stevenson’s vision of a racially stratified economy in the Pacific. In “Happiness,” Nakajima constructs a pre-colonial Palau where a poor and sickly servant has recurring dreams in which he is economically thriving and physically healed. These dreams eventually extend into the protagonist’s physical reality, while his master’s dreams of poverty and disease eventually wreak havoc on the latter’s life. Reading “Happiness” with the Hegelian master-slave dialectic in mind, the reader is forced to question the master’s power over his servant and the importance of the “real” world over the realm of dreams. I argue that while both authors’ depiction of socioeconomic advancement challenges the materialism of their time, they remain bound to inequitable colonial ideals of indigenous peoples’ economic fate.

PANEL 4 | Labor's Production Beyond the Material

Thomas Gimbel, University of Chicago
Philosophy, Sweat, and Flowers: Thought and Labor at Sengan-en

During the Bakumatsu, the 28th Lord of the Shimadzu transformed a portion of the garden at his retreat in Kagoshima, Sengan-en, into the first steelworks and glass manufacturing plant in Japan. This juxtaposition of a “natural” space with what could be considered the birth of the Japanese Industrial Revolution presaged many of what would go on to be some of the pivotal philosophical questions of the next fifty years: how to reconcile a sense of “Japanese-ness” with the drive to modernize, the relationship between humans and nature, and what is the nature of nature? These questions are tied to the different kinds of labor that went into the maintenance of the garden and into the products being created by the factories on site.

My paper seeks to understand both constructed objects, in this case glassware and steel, and spaces, in this case Sengan-en, as the transformation of an idea, by work, into a manifestation of said idea. These spaces and objects are then a springboard for the creation of new ideas. In so doing, I hope to provide a new way of studying intellectual history through work, material culture, and space. By situating the history of ideas as both a source and product of labor, I hope to offer new insights into the trajectory of the development of Japanese thought through the Bakumatsu era and into the Meiji.

Xiaoyi Yang, Bard Graduate Center
Appropriating Zhangzhou Blue-and-White Ceramics in Japan

Coarsely potted and quickly painted with freehand underglaze decoration, Zhangzhou porcelain from the southern coastal area of China was not well received in the late Ming society but it gained great popularity in Japan and Southeast Asia from the late sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. My paper focuses on the transportation, consumption, and appreciation of Zhangzhou blue-and-white porcelain in Japan during the seventeenth century. I aim to explore Japanese urban connoisseurs and ceramic consumers’ responses to imported Zhangzhou products and Japanese tea practitioners’ perception of Zhangzhou potters’ freedom of brush and audacity of potting in the tea contexts. Smuggled into the Japanese market by Fujian and Kyūshū traders, Zhangzhou ceramics were widely circulated on the archipelago and were employed as tea utensils. The paper considers how early Japanese tea men appropriated certain Zhangzhou porcelain designs and further adapted them to native Japanese aesthetics and discourse. Edo tastemakers, adhering to the eclectic spirit of the tea realm, warmly accepted sketchy underglaze painting of Fujian craftsmen as an indication of spontaneity and expression of individuality. After seeing Japanese consumers’ preference for particular vessels and decorative vocabulary, Zhangzhou artisans shrewdly modified their products to meet the very needs of overseas buyers. I argue that Zhangzhou ceramics, though made in Ming China, consciously catered to distinctive Japanese discernment and attained a brand new Japanese identity when they were relocated in tearooms. Modest as they were, Zhangzhou ceramics won acclaim outside China thanks to strong promotion and patronage from Japanese tea communities.

Thiam Huat Kam, Rutgers University
The Immaterial Labor of Materialization: Fans’ Dōjin Activity in Contemporary Japan

In a stage of capitalism that increasingly relies on the production of immaterial entities such as information, lifestyles, brands, and media worlds, the work of consumers has become more necessary than ever for capital accumulation. This paper examines the labor of fans of manga, anime, and games in Japan, what I would the immaterial labor of materialization. These fans perform such labor because what they consume, and what the cultural industries produce, are narrative-worlds and characters, immaterial entities whose value is augmented through their constant materialization in diverse forms. The constellation of settings that constitute a narrative-world, as well as the characters that populate it, are designed with “blanks” and “gaps” which invite fans to exercise their imagination and creativity, especially to materialize feelings (both characters’ and fans’). The result is not merely a semiotic production but an actual economic production, as could be observed in the thriving autonomous production and distribution of books and items (known as dōjin) in Japan. While fans’ labor can be yoked to the capitalist production of surplus-value, it at the same time negotiates the logic of capitalism in complex ways. Through a close examination of dōjin events, and interviews with fans who participate in them, I found that dōjin allows individuals to craft an alternative to the capitalist mode of production demanded by the cultural industries, as well as provide a livelihood for cultural workers, revealing the exploitative nature of these very same industries.

ROUNDTABLE: Labor in Medieval & Early Modern Japan

  • Kaitlin Forgash, UC Berkeley
  • Joel Thielen, UC Berkeley 
  • Shoufu Yin, UC Berkeley


PANEL 1 | Political Messaging of Labor

Frank Mondelli, Stanford University 

Frank Mondelli graduated Swarthmore College with High Honors and election to Phi Beta Kappa in June 2014 and embarked on a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Okinawa, Japan the following year. He is now a Japanese Literature PhD student in the East Asian Languages and Cultures department at Stanford University. Frank's academic interests focus primarily on Japanese media, political culture, disability studies, and anthropology. He is beginning work on a long-term project which explores the relationship between Japanese political ideologies, resistance movements, nationalism, broadcasting, and literature in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Shelby Oxenford, UC Berkeley

Shelby Oxenford is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley, focusing on postwar and contemporary Japan. Her dissertation, Making Meaning of Trauma: Responses to the Tōhoku Earthquake, examines how narratives are interrupted, generated, and reworked in the aftermath of disaster through literature, film, and new media. She is otherwise interested in the tension between the questions of what does it mean to have justice and what does it mean to have healing in the aftermath of traumatic experience, and is interested in comparisons of how these questions of history and trauma have been accounted for, or not, in contemporary Japan and Korea.

Jun Hee Lee, University of Chicago

Jun Hee Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago.  His dissertation, entitled “A Singing Voice for Our Times: the Utagoe Movement in Postwar Japan and Processes of History-Making” examines the history and the narrative-making process of the utagoe movement, the resulting narrative of which has depicted postwar Japan in terms of popular struggles for better livelihood and musical culture befitting “modern” Japan.  Having conducted dissertation research in Japan in the last academic year, he is currently in the process of writing up his dissertation chapters. ace.

PANEL 2 | Dysfunctions of Labor

Ramsey Ismail, UC San Diego

Ramsey Ismail is a graduate student of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. His research examines the various ways pressure to conform to the increasingly under-rewarding demands of first-world capitalism in Japan inspire alternative forms of agency, sociality, and relationship building.

Felix Jawinski, Leipzig University

B.A. in Japan Studies and Political Science, M.A. in Japan Studies (2007-2014)  

Undergraduate research fellow at Aichi Prefectural University/ Japan (08/2009-09/2010)  

Visiting Researcher at the Ōhara Institute for Social Research at Hōsei University (06-08/2016)  German Translator of Yakuza to Genpatsu: Fukushima Daiichi Sen’nyūki by Suzuki Tomohiko published in 2017  

Member of the German research project “Text-Initiative Fukushima” 

Member and in charge for research on Germany within the international research project on nuclear labor hosted by the Hibaku Rōdō o kangaeru nettowāku (Solidarity Network for Irradiated Workers in Japan)

Gao Ming, National University of Singapore

Gao Ming graduated from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Korea and Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan before joining the Ph.D. program at NUS. Prior to moving to Singapore, he has lived, studied and worked in China, Korea, and Japan for many years. Gao Ming's research interests include Empire-building of Japan, colonial studies of East Asia and Manchurian (Manchukuo) studies in particular coolies (Chinese migrant workers in Manchukuo), STDs and infectious diseases. Apart from that, he trained as a barista while living in Korea. His hobbies other than reading and traveling include theatergoing, movies, visiting bookstores and coffee shop exploration.

​PANEL 3 | Representational Work and the Mediation of Labor

Justus Watt, UC Berkeley

Justus Watt is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the History Department at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on rural society and its transformation during the twentieth century. He is currently conducting research for his dissertation which will examine the role of agricultural cooperatives in this transformation and the broader reorientation of state-society relations between 1900 and 1961

Hannah Airriess, UC Berkeley

Hannah Airriess is a PhD candidate in the Department of Film and Media at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation, Staging the Bright Life: White-Collar Cinema in Japan’s Era of High Economic Growth, focuses on the figure of the salaryman, or male white-collar worker, in postwar Japanese studio cinema. She situates these films within domestic and transnational mass cultural theorization of new models of work, examining how workplace comedies mediate shifting formulations of national identity, class, and gender in the era of high economic growth (1955-1972).

Drew Korschun, University of Colorado

I am a student in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, pursuing an M.A. in Japanese. Next academic year, I will begin writing my thesis on the literature of imperial Japan and its colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and the South Pacific. I will aim to uncover ways in which depictions of so-called deviant sexual and gender identities function as metaphor in colonial literature so as to outline writers’ stances towards the relationship between colonizer and colonized and between colonized subjects themselves.

PANEL 4 | Labor's Production Beyond the Material

Thomas Gimbel, University of Chicago

As a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago, I primarily identify myself as an intellectual historian. My methodology and research interests, however, span a much wider range of both disciplines and sub-disciplines within history. My dissertation, “Philosophers among the Flowers: Intellectual history and constructed greenspaces in Meiji Japan” studies intellectual history through the history of work, environmental history, urban history, material culture, aesthetics, and the analytic philosophy of language. To connect these seemingly disparate fields, I ground my study with what I term constructed greenspaces, by which I refer to built urban “natural” environments.

Xiaoyi Yang, Bard Graduate Center

Xiaoyi Yang specializes in the history of East Asian decorative arts and material culture. Her main research areas are Chinese and Japanese ceramics, medieval and early modern Japanese tea culture, East-West commercial and cultural interaction. In particular, she works on the aesthetic and technological exchanges between Chinese, Japanese, and European consumers, merchants, and potters from the late sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries. Her research aims to shed new light on underrepresented East Asian kilns and their workers. Yang held an M.A. degree from Columbia University and has worked at the American Museum of Natural History, Bonhams, Japan Society, and Shanghai Museum.

Thiam Huat Kam, Rutgers University

Thiam Huat Kam is a PhD candidate in the Media Studies program at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information. He researches about capitalism, immaterial labor, and affects, through a focus on media fandom and consumption. His dissertation project examines the fans of manga, anime, and games in Japan, and the moments in which their activities articulate to corporate interests as well as constitute an alternative economy based on non-capitalist values. He is the co-editor of Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons (Bloomsbury, 2015) and has published in the journals Japan Forum and Japanese Studies.

ROUNDTABLE: Labor in Medieval & Early Modern Japan

Brendan Morley, UC Berkeley

Ph.D. candidate in EALC.

Primary interests include Japanese poetry, poetics, and intellectual history; current research focuses on the poetry and philosophical work of Chugan Engetsu, a leading light in the early Gozan literary movement.

Kaitlin Forgash, UC Berkeley

Kaitlin Forgash is a third-year PhD student in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked primarily in the area of mid-Heian court politics, including a project concerning aristocratic women and Amida worship. Her current project shows how personal daily courtier diaries (kanbun nikki) can illuminate larger political shifts in the mid-Heian royal court.

Joel Thielen, UC Berkeley 

​Joel Thielen is a second-year  PhD student in the Department of the History of Art at UC Berkeley working on early modern Zen Buddhist visual cultures of Japan. He has particular interest in monochrome ink paintings called ‘Zenga,’ painted by Zen Buddhist monks, and is currently examining how this genre of painting is collected and displayed in North America. Key inquiries include: how figures such as Hakuin Ekaku conceptualized painting in relation to Buddhist teachings and communities; how these primarily religious works circulated from religious communities into the art market; and, how collectors in Japan and the West came to value these paintings in the modern period. By investigating these questions, he aims to deepen our understanding of the early modern interrelationship of the visual arts and religious practice and enrich study of the modern interest in Zenga in relationship to philosophy, aesthetics, nationalisms, and the visual transference of ideas among modern nations.

Shoufu Yin, UC Berkeley

Shoufu Yin is PhD student in history at the University of California, Berkeley. Specialized in middle-period China (ca.800--1400), he is interested in areas where political and institutional histories meet the literary, intellectual and cultural histories. Currently, he is working on a project that studies medieval bureaucratic documents as sources for political ideas in East Asian context.