Organized Panel Session
With the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon and an aging population in plain sight, it is no surprise that disability has recently become a topic of interest for scholars of Japan. Consider the proliferation of AAS panels over the last few years dedicated to unpacking the social, political, economic, and cultural consequences of disability throughout Japanese history. This panel builds upon those events by exploring the legal, medical, and affective implications of one particular kind of disability in modern Japan: blindness.
Mark Bookman illustrates the historical contingencies and geopolitical circumstances that made blind people the only group of impaired individuals directly involved in the drafting of Japan’s first disability welfare law in 1949 and let them shape the contours of disability justice for decades. Sean O’Reilly analyzes the tropes of sympathy and envy in wartime and contemporary cinematic depictions of blindness to reveal how the real-world experiences of blind people in Japan have been overwritten and negated by mainstream cinema. Wayne Tan explores the relationship between constructions of blindness and epistemologies of medicine and cure during the Tokugawa Period to nuance our understanding of disability in early modern Japan. And Dennis Frost and Nagase Osamu identify the implications of these projects for Disability Studies in/of modern Japan by considering how their theories and methods apply to the present.
Our panel demonstrates how disability studies is changing Japanese studies and vice versa. It will inspire critical discussion about the intersection of disability, media, law, and medicine in Japan.