This is the first of two NEAC roundtables bringing together a few of the many women scholars whose contributions have been foundational to Japanese Studies to reflect on their careers and offer advice to junior scholars. Our 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 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 Marlene Mayo, Barbara Sato, and Susan Pharr, pioneers in Japanese history and political science. They promoted international understanding of Japan by producing groundbreaking scholarship on diverse texts and political changes, curating archives (e.g., George W. Prange Collection), directing centers (e.g., Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies), and forming scholarly networks (e.g., Modern Japanese History Workshop). They transformed women’s roles in higher education by breaking through gender barriers and setting examples for their colleagues. Their lives bridge Japan and the United States. Their achievements and setbacks teach about U.S.-Japan relations, universities, and women’s advancement.
Presenters will be introduced by scholars familiar with their work and significance to Japanese Studies (Kerkham,Freedman, and Kingsberg-Kadia). 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. 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.