Call for Papers: Rethinking Labor: Work and Livelihood in Japan

Rethinking Labor: Work and Livelihood in Japan
April 13th and 14th, 2018
University of California, Berkeley

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.

Categories of exploration might include but are not limited to:

  • Transnational identities and labor flows, including colonial labor, immigration, zainichi, and international labor movements
  • Gendered labor, such as OLs, factory work, domestic labor, and sex work
  • Effects of recession and/or neoliberal policies on work, such as changes in lifetime employment, underemployment, flexible labor, precariat movements, netto kafe nanmin, and furītā
  • Visual culture for and/or about workers, such as proletarian literature, socialist realism, salaryman film and manga
  • Role of labor in media production, such as participation in the studio cinema system, patronage, advertising, factory work
  • Ideological centrality of categories of labor to specific historical period, such as imperial service in Heian Period, military service in the Wartime period, and the salaryman in the postwar era
  • Workplace conditions especially in cases of karōshi, burakku kigyō, powahara.
  • Work through religions; such as the livelihood of Buddhist monasteries, Shinto shrines, or Christian convents
  • Architecture and infrastructure of work
  • The shifting relationship between economic structure and regimes of labor at specific historical moments, such as the manorial economy and the emergence of the shōen system, the development and growth of a commercial economy and rural industry, Tokugawa urbanization and urban consumption, the move from agriculture to industry

Requirements for Submission

Please sent an abstract of no more than 250 words along with your name, institutional affiliation, presentation title, and short biography (100 words) to by December 15, 2017.

Limited funding is available for participants. Please apply early and indicate your need for funding, including from where you will be travelling and whether you will require lodging. International scholars are encouraged to apply.​

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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