ASIAN 480 - Topics in Asian Studies
Winter 2021, Section 002 - Antiracism and Japanese Culture
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Waitlist Capacity:
May be elected four times for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:


This course trains students to think critically and comparatively about how concepts of race have been constructed and deployed in the context of Japanese culture, across different historical periods. Using an intersectional feminist framework, we will undertake a transdisciplinary analysis of the discontinuous yet entangled ideologies, affinities, and institutional structures that have configured our unjust past and present. Our driving question is this: How can we employ a Black feminist framework to analyze the historical forces contributing to the particular racial formations congealing within and around Japanese cultures since the late medieval period, and how might we build from this analysis to challenge white supremacist structures? In pursuing anti-racist study, we draw mainly from scholarship in diasporic ethnic studies, mixed-race studies, queer studies, indigenous studies, Asian American studies, Black feminist theory, and afro-pessimism—analytical lenses generally left untapped in Japanese studies. Examples include studies of Japanese Brazilian diaspora; Japanese zainichi Koreans’ language politics; mixed-race representations of Black/Japanese subjects; cold war Afro-Asian solidarity; and afro-pessimist investigations into how late-medieval western antiblackness nourished modern Japanese notions of racial superiority.

The primary goals of this course are to establish a critical awareness of racialization and its multifaceted histories, and to develop students’ skills of critical thinking and analytical writing about Japanese culture in an antiracist mode. This involves investigating the roots and legacies of anti-Blackness toward the goal of imagining strategies for practicing anti-racism in our scholarship and non-academic lives. Topics to be explored include the premodern history of Japanese slavery; shifting religious and legal definitions of property and personhood in a transnational frame; the development of racial capitalism; Jesuit missionary activities in Asia, as linked to the slave trade and conquest in the “New World”; racialized representations in literature, drama, visual art, and film; colonialism and modern contestations of sovereignty; legacies of minstrelsy (including blackface and yellowface); white supremacy and Japanese imperialism in Asia; the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII; pre-WWII interracial solidarity movements and cold war decolonial efforts; and contemporary artistic and political responses to right-wing extremism.

By the end of the course students will be able to historicize various notions of race, delineate their premises and ideological aims, and conduct research on Japanese culture using intersectional methods. Over the term we will engage in close readings of primary texts and secondary criticism, which will be supplemented with examinations of art historical materials, archival photographs and film footage, and contemporary media.

Course Requirements:

Students will complete five bi-weekly analysis assignments (50%), one presentation (10%), one creative writing exercise (10%), and a final research/creative project of their own design (30%). No Japanese language background is assumed or required, however, original language research will be expected of graduate student participants. Reading load is approximately 50–150 pages per week. Previous coursework in Asian studies, Asian American studies, Black studies, or gender studies is recommended.

Intended Audience:

Undergraduates and graduate students interested in Japanese culture, race/ethnicity, intellectual history, and social justice.

Class Format:

Two 90-minute discussion meetings weekly. As a DC (Distance due to COVID) course, all aspects of this course will be fully compatible with remote online learning. However, students will need to be available for virtual class meetings at their scheduled times.


ASIAN 480 - Topics in Asian Studies
Schedule Listing
002 (SEM)
MW 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Note: Meets-with AMCULT 405.004 (5 seats) and WGS 435.004 (5 seats).
003 (SEM)
Tu 4:00PM - 7:00PM
005 (SEM)
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
Note: Meets-with SEAS 455 "Environmental Crises in Southeast Asia: Past and Present". Synchronous on M/W 1:00-2:30pm.

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for ASIAN 480.002

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for ASIAN 480 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)