The Institute for Japanese Studies presents:
"Bridging Divides: The Work of Cultural Ambassadorships in Contemporary Japan"
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Dr. Mari Noda
Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, The Ohio State University
Abstract: The notion of cultural ambassadors – people, products, artistic expressions, ideas that span different locations – can be useful in thinking through global interactions. If the role of the political ambassador is to create long-lasting liaisons between nations, then the role of the cultural ambassador is to achieve similar kinds of linkages through soft-power, positive interactions. Cultural ambassadorship has been critical in steering paths of globalization as key vectors of influence. In this talk I point to one contemporary cultural ambassador that has gone from Japan to different parts of the globe – Hello Kitty and the concept of kawaii (cute). My approach here is not as comprehensive as I would like, since my research on the topic has focused primarily on the United States. (Notably, if I were to truly research the global impact of Hello Kitty and kawaii, I should spend years in different parts of Asia where the plush toy is very popular.) Nevertheless, thinking through the cultural ambassadorship of Hello Kitty and kawaii in the United States points us toward important lessons in transnational interactions, meanings, commercialism, and critique. This case study suggests that the project of bridging divides is both crucial and fraught, creating contingencies of empathic reach.
Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai`i, has conducted research on Japan and Japanese Americans with a focus on popular culture. In 2020-2021 she served as the President of the Association for Asian Studies. She has served as Chair of the American Advisory Committee to Japan Foundation from 2018 to 2022. In 2022 she begins her tenure as President-Elect of the Society for East Asian Anthropology, American Anthropological Association. Her publications include Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song (Harvard, 2002), Airborne Dreams: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways (Duke, 2011), and Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty and its Trek Across the Pacific (Duke, 2013). Her latest book is Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words with Neal Akatsuka (Duke, 2018).
A specialist in East Asian language pedagogy, Mari Noda is primarily interested in curriculum, material development, and assessment. She directs SPEAC (Summer Programs East Asian Concentration), which currently offers intensive Japanese and Chinese language programs. She is a lead producer of the NihionGO NOW! series (2021, Routledge), a new beginning-to-intermediate-level learning material, and the Japanese Skills Test (JSKIT), a low-stake online assessment tool. She is also a co-author of Japanese: The Written Language (2006 and 2018, Yale University) and “Remembering the future: compiling knowledge of another culture” (with Galal Walker, 2010, National East Asian Language Resource Center at The Ohio State University). She serves on the Board of Directors of Japan-America Society of Central Ohio. At OSU, she serves as the faculty advisor for the Nihongo Osyaberi-kai (Japanese Conversation Club).
To build on Brad Richardson’s contribution to Ohio State, the State of Ohio and the community of Japan-related scholars and professionals, the Ohio State Institute for Japanese Studies (IJS) has created the Brad Richardson Memorial Fund and seeks to grow it to the endowment level. Brad Richardson was a Distinguished University Professor in Political Science, the IJS founding Director, and a former Honorary Consul General of Japan for Ohio. Brad passed away in 2015. The Memorial Fund will be used to propel us vigorously towards the same goals that Brad promoted. Namely, the funds will support academic and outreach activities that promote Japanese Studies on campus and that enhance the interest, knowledge and discourse on Japan-related topics in the academic communities and general public. Until the contributions to the fund reach the endowment level, the fund shall function as a current-use fund.
Free and Open to the Public
If you require an accommodation, such as live captioning, to participate in this event, please contact EASC at email@example.com. Requests made at least two weeks in advance of the event will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.
This event is supported by a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant to The Ohio State University East Asian Studies Center.