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Conference “Textuality as social action in Shōwa era Japan”

The international conference “Textuality as social action in Shōwa era Japan” from 28 to 29 September belongs to a series of Japan-focused events held at the University of Tartu since 2018 with the aim of introducing various aspects of Japanese culture and society in an interdisciplinary approach, while bringing together scholars and students from different countries across various academic fields.

The seemingly perpetual flash and boom of today’s audio-visually saturated living environment calls for new ways of thinking about our everyday experience of popular culture for the benefit of a more coherent understanding of the historical and social processes that we are inevitably involved in. In particular, it is the role and agency that textuality has in shaping our perception habits and consumption patterns of cultural products that needs to be re-examined if the scope of its political potential for contributing to social change is to be fully grasped and contextualised within a specific spatiotemporal situation.

This conference aims to align a consideration of popular cultural phenomena in Japan during the Shōwa era, roughly corresponding to the second half of the 20th century, with the historical notion of textuality, on the one hand, and social action on the other. This double goal will be set against the backdrop of crucial events in post-war Japanese history, such as the country’s involvement in the Cold War-era geopolitics, the social and student movements of the 1960s, the high economic growth and its reconfiguration of the social strata, the subsequent waves of recession and the ongoing negotiation about Japan’s place within the East Asian region and the global order. By focusing on a wide range of texts as well as creative practices and audience engagement, the conference seeks to elucidate on a variety of broader issues relating to Japan’s past and present through the examination of popular culture’s capacity to express timely concerns as well as to act as catalyst for social protest and political activism.


Questions and topics addressed at the conference include but are not limited to:

  • Popular literary and visual texts
  • Popular music and performing arts
  • Articulations of social and protest movements
  • Depictions of historical events in popular texts
  • Textuality and spatiality
  • Audience engagement and reader reception
  • Performance and gender
  • Intermediality in popular media


Applications by presenters should comprise an abstract (250-300 words) discussing the main ideas of the paper. PhD students and early career researchers are most encouraged to participate. For submitting the abstract, please click here.

Abstract submission deadline: June 12, 2023 

Notification on submitted abstracts: June 26, 2023


Participation without presentation

Students, policymakers, practitioners and researchers are invited to attend the conference even when not presenting a paper.

Conference is free of charge. The event will be held in-person, but depending on the situation of travel restrictions may be switched to online. For more information, please visit our webpage.

In case of any questions, please do not hesitate to contact: Ene Selart (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Organising Committee:

Ene Selart (Junior Lecturer, University of Tartu)

Lauri Kitsnik (Associate Professor, Hiroshima University)

Alevtina Solovyeva (Head of the Centre for Oriental Studies, University of Tartu)

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