August 14, 2020
[guitar theme song]
Dr. Allison Alexy: Hello and welcome to the second season of Michigan Talks Japan, a podcast from the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. I'm Allison Alexy. In our regular episodes I talk with scholars working in Japanese Studies – across academic disciplines, across time periods.
A lot has happened since we started recording the first episodes of the podcast back in December 2019, which now feels like years ago. As you might know, all of the episodes in the first season were recorded in person, in the wonderful studio within the Shapiro Design Lab on the UM campus, with lots of support from the Design Lab staff. Our first season of guests were visitors who had been invited to give public presentations in the Center for Japanese Studies "noon lecture" series - many of which are available as videos on YouTube - and they were kind enough to add our podcast recording to their visit. It was a pleasure to hear their presentations, to get to chat with guests as we walked to the recording studio, and to sit across from them as we discussed their work.
For the time being, none of that is possible and this new season necessarily reflects some big changes. First, perhaps most obviously, our guests are now talking with me from their homes and the sound quality is less consistent than what we can control in a studio. I hope you will be as charmed as I am to hear the sounds of normal life happening in the background of our conversations – traffic, or lawn mowers, or dogs requesting pats. In those noises I hear incredible generosity as people make room for a podcast in the midst of much more pressing responsibilities. Second, perhaps less obviously, the discipline of Japanese Studies might now be at the cusp of public conversations about long-standing patterns of inequity, racism, and exclusion – in the discipline of Japanese Studies, in Asian Studies more generally, in the academy, and in Japan. Of course, these conversations have been happening on a smaller scale for a very long time, but they have never been so public. To my mind, it is well past time to address the intersectional disparities that exist largely unmarked in our field and I am grateful to scholars who have made themselves vulnerable – or more vulnerable – to explore these topics. I hope this podcast can be part of those conversations about gaps in wealth, power, and authority in the field, about who teaches Japanese language courses and who teaches everything else, about whose research in Japan is regularly interrupted by police demanding identification and who sails right on by.
In the same way I feel gratitude to our guests, I feel real gratitude to you, our listeners, for your interest and participation. I am old enough to remember when the only way to call the US from Japan was to stand in a loud train station on one of the green "international" public pay phones, so the basic technology supporting of all this still feels like a minor miracle to me. I am trying to find and make moments of joy and possibility amidst all of what's going on. We are working hard to create engaging conversations and are excited to share the newest episodes with you and soon, hopefully some other fun developments that are still in process. As always, thank you for listening and thank you for the comments you've shared. Stay tuned or subscribe for the new episodes as they are released in the next weeks. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you all.