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Japan Study Abroad Program 2014



Crosscurrents of American and Japanese Cultures
6-week course from mid-June to July 2014


Prof. Laura Fugikawa, Visiting Assistant Professor in Asian American Studies and Gender & Women's Studies

Prof. Karen Su, Clinical Assistant Professor in Asian American Studies


This interdisciplinary comparative study abroad course explores the similarities, divergences, and cross-cultural circulation of each nation’s cultural life from the mid-20th century post war period to the contemporary moment. This study abroad course is organized around two major interconnected themes that serve as touch points of our comparative study: history and cultural representations of WWII and its aftermaths and emerging expressions of gender and sexuality.

  • Examine the intertwining flows of Asia American, American and Japanese culture since World War II in order to foster a critical worldview.
  • Discover how place, people and history matter in the context of remembering the past, creating cultural representations and developing racial/ethnic, arts/cultural, and political communities.
  • Increase their awareness of cultural attitudes and enhance their comparative analytical and critical skills through real world experiences.
  • Experience community organizing, language, media and popular culture within different social contexts.
  • Prepare themselves for a life of engagement as effective global and local citizens.

Throughout the course, academic theories on the social constructions of race, how power works, and the dynamics of inequality across nations will be introduced. We will study identity (racial, gender, sexual orientation) and nation formation in the U.S. and Japan within a framework that looks at the interlocking issues of indigeneity, empire, and occupation. We will also continually reflect on how gender and sexual norms are articulated in memorialization and remembrance of imperialism, war-making, occupation, and their aftermaths and how experiences of war, displacement, migration and globalization play a role in the construction of experiences of gender and sexuality identities. We will use and question these theories to critically analyze significant works of literature, film, and visual arts to begin to understand differences and similarities between countries, and to inform our real world, experiential learning during field trips in and around Chicago, Tokyo, and Hiroshima.


Students will be enrolled in LAS 299 for 6 credits but in consultation with their academic advisor, students may receive credit toward ASAM 290 and GWS 294.

***ASAM 290 (3 credits): Remembering the War: Asian American and Japanese Cultural Representations of WWII and its Aftermath

World War II is a significant moment in Japanese and American relations because the nations’ military attacks on one another had dramatic political, economic and social impact globally, nationally and on individual citizens. The postwar period is a rich time period to explore the cultural and economic interconnections of both nations for it not only included the US military occupation of Japan, shared national postwar industrial booms and increased immigration and emigration between both countries, there was also the large migrations and resettlements of people of Japanese descent within both national borders. Part of our study will critically compare these significant cultural and spatial changes in citizen’s lives, alongside representations of WWII, monuments and places of remembrance, with a critical eye to what histories are presented and which are absent in popular culture and everyday life.

***GWS 294 (3 credits): Gender and Sexualities in the U.S. and Japan

On both sides of the Pacific, there are dramatic shifts in society with respect to gender expression, gender roles, and expressions of sexuality in the postwar period and late 20thcentury.  We will look at how the social construction of gender and sexuality and track these changes over time through representations of gender and sexuality in popular culture to consider the normative trends and compelling contradictions in mainstream culture such as animé and television dramas. We will learn about cultural acceptance of same sex relationships, and queer cultural life in popular culture and through discussion with community groups and community organizers.


Students must be enrolled at UIC at time of application and completed 12 hours at UIC with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Pre-requisites: A previous Asian American Studies or Gender & Women’s Studies course OR consent of instructor.


Program fee is still to be announced but will include tuition, housing, most meals, transportation from Hiroshima to Tokyo, numerous study tours and local excursions, and orientations. Additional expenses include: airfare, personal expenses and optional travel. Financial Aid may apply. Program is partially subsidized by a grant from the UIC Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Students' Educational Engagement Initiative, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. AANAPISI scholarships are available for eligible students.


1) For the application process, please contact the Study Abroad Office, 312-413-7662, 502 UH,

2) For course-related questions, please contact Prof. Karen Su, at