Japanese Contemporary Popular Culture: Media Practices in a Global Context

Course Type: Seminar
Study Focus: VMC
Term: Spring

Teacher: Björn-Ole KAMM
Course Code: JK05001

The focus of this practice-oriented and interactive seminar lies on theoretical concepts and analytical techniques useful to engage transculturality in the cross-disciplinary research fields of visual, material and media culture.


Japanese popular media practices play not only in Japan a significant role in the everyday lives of many people. The course investigates various elements of this popular and consumer culture, such as manga, anime, or games, from a transcultural perspective. This practice-oriented and interactive seminar focuses on theoretical concepts and analytical techniques practical to engage transculturality in the cross-disciplinary research fields of visual, material, and media culture.

Research into (sub-/pop-) cultures, for example, fan studies, often focuses either on the content or on the communities of fandom, at times essentializing involved persons or drawing borders around highly interconnected and dynamic things. However, cultural practices are performative, meaning that they exist through “doing,” through recreating, tracing the network of involved human and non-human elements.

Borrowing from Wittgenstein, Foucault, and many others, the course revisits key readings for a transcultural approach dealing with visual practices, such as cosplay and media content, for example, cultural representations of nationality or gender. Questions of production, reception and appropriation by users in and outside Japan form the second point of departure. The theoretical input forms the basis for practical exercises in applying these methodologies to concrete cases.

The course primarily addresses JDTS and MATS students of the VMC focus in their first semester but also welcomes students in their second year who are about to define their MA thesis topic. The course requires students to actively participate, do regular written homework and occasionally work in teams. It does not include a written term paper (see ECTS requirements below!), but several written short pieces and a project report instead.

Course Information

Module: Introduction to Transcultural Studies
CATS Requirements: BA 3rd. year or above
Link to course material on PandA.

Day/Period: Tue/3
Location: Lec. 9
Credits: 2

Course Goals

The course seeks to establish an understanding of theories of transculturality, entertainment, and user agency and various angles of research methodology useful for the study of visual and media practices. Building on a Wittgensteinian approach to cultural practices, students will acquire knowledge and skills in how to develop a matching research design for studies sensitive to the role of actors and materials alike.

Students will apply key methodologies to contemporary cases studies, such as cyber-ethnography of fans, qualitative visual and textual analysis of manga, or the analysis of discourses surrounding the physical embodiment of fictional characters. The course aims to assist students in taking the leap to a position of knowledge production and thus focuses on practical exercises and training in academic presentation skills. 

Course Schedule and Evaluation

For a detailed course schedule, please visit KULASIS or the PandA platform.

The course involves weekly reading and writing assignments as well as fieldwork (students will collect and analyze qualitative data as part of a shared research project). The students will present their project results via posters at the end of the course.