Outreach Grant Conference Report: “Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan and Beyond”

From Sabine Frühstück (University of California at Santa Barbara), who organized the workshop:

On February 27-28, 2015, SHCY helped to sponsor an international workshop on “Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan and Beyond” at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Organized by Sabine Frühstück, the workshop brought together scholars from History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Cultural Studies from Europe, Japan, and the United States. The ten papers were organized in several sessions on Playing + Games, Visual + Writing Cultures, and Visual Cultures, and covered the period from medieval to contemporary Japan.

A number of papers explored such questions as how the boundaries between adulthood and childhood have been historically drawn, what the place of play and games have been in education, and how children have been sexed and gendered in different settings. Koresawa Hiroaki (Otsuma Women’s University) and Jinno Yuki (Kanto Gakuin University), both expert of the history of toys and the commercialization of childhood, for instance, examined how the proliferation of certain toys might serve as an indication for the changes of attitudes towards children and childhood. Lizbeth Halliday Piel (University of Manchester), Elise Edwards (Butler University), and Aaron Moore (Manchester University) explored the role of play for children’s self-determination from outside play during wartime Japan to contemporary children’s soccer. In papers on the visual culture of childhood, Harald Salomon (Humboldt University) analyzed the subversive potential of films that featured children in the 1920s and 1930s, Sabine Frühstück (University of California at Santa Barbara) presented a paper about the rhetorical and visual mobilization of child innocence in twentieth century publications, and Noriko Manabe (Princeton University) addressed the role of children’s culture in anti-nuclear protest in the aftermath of the 2011 triple disaster in Northeastern Japan. Papers by Kathryn Goldfarb (McMaster University) and Teruyama Junko (Tsukuba University) took up socio-medical questions regarding children who are institutionalized in child welfare facilities and treatment centers for autistic children. A panel discussion with artist Machida Kumi, cultural studies expert Dick Hebdige and anthropologist Jennifer Robertson about the place of children in contemporary Japanese art constituted the final component of the conference.

Over the course of two days about 200 audience members, including students, scholars, and community members, joined the presenters and engaged in lively discussions. In addition to SHCY, the following institutions and university units provided co-sponsorship: the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, the Division of Letters and Science, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, the East Asian Center, and the departments of Art, East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies, History, Sociology, and Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. For more information about the conference see: http://www.eastasian.ucsb.edu/projects/childs-play/.

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