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Thank you for your interest in the UNC Japan Lab.

Interested in Partnering with the Lab?

If you are a school, a community organization, or a company interested in partnering with us, please contact Dr. Pitelka.

Students Interested in Research

If you are a prospective graduate student, please contact Dr. Pitelka or any of the members of our team to discuss your research interests. Our student members are happy to answer questions!

If you are a UNC undergraduate interested in Japanese history, please be sure first to take available courses through the Department of History, DAMES, and other departments to acquire the fundamental knowledge on which research experiences will be built. You should take one or more of the courses below before reaching out to the lab by emailing Dr. Pitelka to see if research opportunities are available.

Some appropriate courses that have been offered at UNC in the past include:

ASIA 57 First-Year Seminar: Dis-Orienting the Orient, 3 credits. Examines how the East is constructed as the Orient in different historical periods: 19th-century European colonialism, 1950s to 1960s Hollywood films, contemporary Japanese animation, and the current global war on terrorism.

ASIA 63 First-Year Seminar: Japanese Tea Culture, 3 credits. This seminar explores the history of tea culture in Japan, particularly the emergence in the 16th and 17th centuries of the ritualized practice often referred to in English as the “tea ceremony”, chanoyu. Practitioners included merchants, Buddhist monks, warlords, European Jesuits, and professional tea masters.

ASIA 134 Modern East Asia, HIST 134, PWAD 134, 3 credits. Comparative and interdisciplinary introduction to China and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on impact of the West, nation building, industrialization, and evolution of mass society.

ASIA 150 Asia: An Introduction, 3 credits. The course introduces Asia’s historical, cultural, and political diversity by examining some of the global forces that have shaped Asian societies, for example, colonialism, orientalism, and neoliberalism.

ASIA 158 Introduction to East Asian Art and Architecture, ARTH 158), 3 credits. This course traces the history of art and architecture in premodern East Asia, emphasizing ideas and ways of seeing and representing that were common or different across East Asia.

ASIA 281 The Pacific War, 1937–1945: Its Causes and Legacy, HIST 281, PWAD 281, 3 credits. An examination of the origins of the Pacific War, the course of this bitter and momentous conflict, and its complex legacy for both Asia and the United States.

ASIA 287 Modern Japan, HIST 287, 3 credits. Covering the period from 1600 to 1900, this course examines the causes and impact of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which marked the start of modern Japan.

ASIA 288 Japan in the 20th Century, HIST 288, 3 credits. Topics include the Japanese Empire, the road to the Pacific War, defeat, the Allied occupation, Japan’s recovery from war, and development into a democracy and the world’s second largest economy.

ASIA 301 Premodern Japanese Religions, RELI 286, 3 credits. Historical survey of the major premodern religious traditions in Japan: Shinto, Buddhism, Shugendo, and Christianity.

ASIA 302 Modern Japanese Religions, RELI 287, 3 credits. Survey of the major religious traditions in modern and contemporary Japan: Shinto, Buddhism, and the New Religions.

ASIA 330 Melancholy Japan: Myth, Memory, and Everyday Life, ANTH 330, 3 credits. Ethnographic study of the profound social and cultural transformations that accompanied the capitalist modernization of Japan. Considers the emergence of native ethnology and state interventions into everyday life.

ASIA 379 Cowboys, Samurai, and Rebels in Film and Fiction, CMPL 379, 3 credits. Cross-cultural definitions of heroism, individualism, and authority in film and fiction, with emphasis on tales or images that have been translated across cultures. Includes films of Ford, Kurosawa, and Visconti.

ASIA 427 Cold War Culture in East Asia: Transnational and Intermedial Connections, CMPL 527, PWAD 427, 3 credits. This course introduces students to the specific contours that the Cold War accrued in East Asia. Focusing on literature and film, it explores what the fall of the Japanese Empire and the emergence of the post-1945 world meant across the region.

ASIA 487 Mountains, Pilgrimage, and Sacred Places in Japan, RELI 487, 3 credits. This course explores the role that mountains and pilgrimage have played in Japanese cosmology and how they relate to methodology of studying place and space.

ASIA 488 Shinto in Japanese History, RELI 488, 3 credits. This course discusses the development of Shinto in Japanese history and covers themes such as myths, syncretism, sacred sites, iconography, nativism, religion and the state, and historiography.

ASIA 489 Animals in Japanese Religion, RELI 489. Permission of the instructor. This course examines the cultural construction of animals in Japanese myth, folklore, and religion.

JAPN 231 Ancient and Medieval Japanese History and Culture, HIST 271, 3 credits. This survey examines Japanese history from early times to the Tokugawa settlement of 1603. We will consider the archaeology of prehistoric Japan; the first great capitals at Nara and Heian; the rise of the samurai; and the tenuous medieval balance of power between the court, warrior government, and Buddhist institutions.

JAPN 246 Early Modern Japanese History and Culture, HIST 247, 3 credits. This course focuses on Japan’s early modern period, 1600–1868) and explores the historicism of the artist Hon’ami Koetsu; the status system and village life; the writings of Matsuo Basho; dramatic culture and the life of the city; and the interplay between sex, gender, and commerce.

JAPN 277 Empire of Sex: Eroticism, Mass Culture, and Geopolitics in Japan, 1945–Present, 3 credits. Tokyo, Japan, became the center of global pornographic culture after the United States occupation ended in 1952. This course will use film, animation, and historical texts to try to understand how and why this happened. Moreover, we will identify how this phenomenon impacted the lives of Japanese men and women.

JAPN 363 Samurai, Monks, and Pirates: History and Historiography of Japan’s Long 16th Century, HIST 370, 3 credits. This course will examine Japan’s long 16th century. Introduces students to the history of, and historiographical problems with the representation of, some of the most fascinating characters in Japanese history, including pirates, warlords, tea masters, Jesuit monks, Buddhist priests, and peripatetic artists.

JAPN 375 The Culture of Modern, Imperial Japan, 1900–1945, 3 credits. This course will examine the various expressions of cultural modernity in Japan with a focus on film, literature, and popular culture from 1900 to the end of the Pacific War.

JAPN 451 Swords, Tea Bowls, and Woodblock Prints: Exploring Japanese Material Culture, 3 credits. This course surveys Japanese material culture. Each week we will examine a different genre of visual or material culture in terms of its production, circulation through time and space, and modern deployment in narratives of national identity. This course includes regular engagement with the Ackland Art Museum at UNC.

JAPN 482 Embodying Japan: The Cultures of Beauty, Sports, and Medicine in Japan, 3 credits. Explores Japanese culture and society through investigating changing concepts of the human body. Sources include anthropological and history materials, science fiction, and film.