The second NEAC roundtable honoring women foundational to Japanese Studies explores the formation of fields in medieval and early-modern Japan and the importance of translation. Our two NEAC panels challenge the common narrative that Japanese Studies was established by men who worked for the U.S. military after World War II or were from missionary families in Japan. This is only part of the story—the field was also created by women in the 1950s thorugh 1980s, who were among world’s first female doctoral students, the first Americans to academically analyze Japan, and the first U.S. students to study at Japanese universities. These women’s careers were thanks to the establishment of fellowships, educational developments, activist movements to include the study of women and Asia in university curricula, and measures to prevent gender discrimination (e.g., Title XI), among other factors.
This roundtable features Barbara Ruch, Anne Walthall, Sumie Jones, and Takako Lento, who have made groundbreaking contributions to global understanding of medieval and early-modern Japan. They played leadership roles in academic centers; pioneered careers outside the academy; translated prose and poems integral to Japan’s national heritage; and wrote about women often omitted from other historical accounts. Their seminal monographs, edited collections, and translations have been widely used by scholars and have attracted non-specialists readers. Their work adds gender to the study of literature, religion, history, society, politics, and aesthetics.
Presenters will be introduced by scholars familiar with their work and their significance to Japanese Studies (Selinger, Botsman, Suzuki, and Ericson). Presenters will give 15-minute talks addressing what brought them to Japanese Studies; their contributions in scholarship, teaching, and service; transformations in their disciplines; and advice for junior scholars. The presentations will be followed by discussion with the audience. This two-panel collaboration forms part of a larger archival project which traces the history of Japanese Studies through the narratives of those who identify as women and ensures that the contributions of older generations are not forgotten. A list-in-progress of approximately fifty such figures across Japanese Studies will be shown in introducing the roundtables.