Organized Panel Session
Two years ago, a panel on disability in Japan was convened at the Association for Asian Studies in response to the Sagamihara Stabbings of 2016. That panel began a conversation about the construction of disability as a social, political, and cultural category in Japan. With the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo on the horizon and an aging population in plain sight, it is now imperative for us to continue that conversation. It seems clear that Japan’s treatment of disability in the coming years will influence the nation’s geopolitical status and domestic hierarchies. Therefore, we are inclined to ask who decides what it means to be disabled, how they arrive at those decisions, and what the consequences of their actions are. By drawing on approaches from Pop-Culture Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and related disciplines, we explore these questions and produce a multidimensional account of disability in Japan today.
Our panel is composed of three presenters, a discussant (Carolyn Stevens), and a chair (Karen Nakamura). Mark Bookman investigates how policymakers responding to the Sagamihara Stabbings have reshaped the definition of disability in Japan and asks whom their actions privilege with access. Frank Mondelli asks a similar question in relation to CG Shuwa, an assemblage of algorithms that translate spoken Japanese into visualizations of Japanese Sign Language. Finally, Yoshiko Okuyama considers the role of autobiographical manga in destigmatizing disability and mental illness in Japan. Collectively, these presentations invite discussion about the intersection of disability, media, and policy in Japanese and global contexts.