Conference Ljubljana 2014 – Section 5b: Anthropology and Sociology – Report Jens SEJRUP

Jens SEJRUP
Jens.Sejrup[@]ace.lu.se
Lund Universtity

The Ljubljana conference was the first time a separate section on Media Studies was organized at an EAJS conference, so in many ways this section was exploratory and groundbreaking. I think it very convincingly managed to carve out a position for Media Studies as a separate EAJS section: it was quite clear from the composition of panels and the topics and discussions covered by the section that a large number of subfields and specializations in Japanese Studies felt at home under this new heading, having perhaps until then experienced a certain amount of ”homelessness” in the other sections. For the same reason, the section covered a large range of topics and, overall, seemed to focus broadly and inclusively rather than thematically or in depth. This seemed to be a very appropriate and fitting approach, and a successful way of launching a whole new EAJS section.

Given the breadth and scope of the different panels and discussions, it makes sense in this brief report to outline the proceedings under two main categories: a) popular culture, and b) media forms and history. ”Media Studies” as handled and approached in Ljubljana was in many ways a coming-together of these two rather different types of interests and specializations, united under the common feature of being preoccupied with mediationin one form of another. 

Iwabuchi Koichi delivered the section keynote address, focusing on the issue of an emerging paradigm in media culture with a special emphasis on representation, mobilization of repressed groups and the possibilities of rethinking the roles and functions of both new and conventional media.

The section’s first and third day featured single panels, while the format split into parallel sessions on the second day. Disregarding a number of overlaps, the panels roughly spanned the two overall main categories in the following way:

Popular culture, manga and mass-mediated entertainment:

  1. Usami, Gössmann, and Hayashi on television dramas,
  2. Nagata and Saladin on gender roles in mass media,
  3. Yoshioka & Germer, Hansen, Grace and Thorsen Vilslev on gender 

normativity in various mediated forms,

  • Kirsch, Armendariz, Weingärtner and Aira on postcolonial and post-imperialist issues in television, comedy and cinema, and
  • Figal, Kameda and Wolf on the fantastic in various media 

Media history, news coverage and media forms:

  1. Kimura, Monnet, Takagi and Nakagawa on 3.11 documentaries and cinema,
  2. Orbaugh, Havranek and Magyar on propaganda and censorship,
  3. Hall, Sejrup and Istenič on media and politics
  4. Coates, Fedorova, Haukamp and Gonzalez on mid-20th century cinema, 
  5. Thornton, Park, Formanek, Bučar, Oikawa, Mikhailova, Linhart and Löffler on the history and various aspects of postcards (2 panels), and
  6. Yasar, Nordström, Şahin and Nozawa on mediated voice.

In addition, a panel of individual papers (Hasegawa, Broinowski and Unser-Schutz) addressed both categories. The split into parallel sessions primarily affected the second category, while most panels in the first category took place without parallel panels in session. This meant that the popular culture-oriented panels enjoyed comparatively more exposure and a larger interface with the average section participant. Given the sheer size of that field, the convenors’ choice to design the program this way seemed reasonable enough, albeit arguably preferential of popular-culture aspects of media studies over various others. 

The Media Studies section successfully managed to bring together two overall categories of papers that would otherwise likely end up in very different ends of the conference. Very roughly speaking, the first category of papers tended more towards humanities sections like modern literature, visual arts and performing arts, while the second category was more related to the history section on the one hand and the social science sections of politics & international relations and anthropology & sociology on the other. Despite these two different general orientations, however, all panels shared an overarching primary concern with mediation and representation, a fact that gave structure and coherence to the Media Studies section and would probably have made most of the panels seem out of place in other EAJS sections.

The dual-category nature of the section naturally meant that somewhat different types of discussions were pursued in the two different categories. However, this feature did not take away from the pleasure and interest of participating in the section, and it was very enjoyable to experience the spirit of curiosity and mutual interests that generally characterized the sessions and discussions during those three days. Overall, the section was a very stimulating and rewarding initiative, especially as it brought together different types of media and representation specialists at EAJS in this new and innovative section.

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