IGS Seminar “Family and Schooling in Contemporary Japan”

IGS Seminar “Family and Schooling in Contemporary Japan: Foreign Perspectives and Research”

On Thursday, June 19, 2016, the IGS seminar was held featuring a lecture by Dr. Susan D. Holloway (Specially Appointed Professor, IGS / Professor, University of California, Berkeley). Dr. Holloway’s talk was entitled, “Family and Schooling in Contemporary Japan: Foreign Perspectives and Research.” Dr. Holloway is specialized in cultural analysis of family and early childhood education. Her book, Contested Childhood: Diversity and Change in Japanese Preschools, published by Routledge (2000), is based on her research on preschool education in Japan. This book is widely read among specialists of early childhood education worldwide.

Dr. Holloway talked about the shift in research perspective of American scholars studying Japan, along with the forty years of her fieldwork experience in Japan. The American interest in Japanese education was rising in the late 70s, about the time when Dr. Holloway started her academic career. American researchers of that time mainly focused on the significance and “greatness” of Japan, and there was a tendency to define the source of Japan’s strength shortsightedly as culture. Such a biased “foreign” perspective has been gradually replaced to a more objective one. The objectivity has been developed by noticing the existing differences in Japanese society, examining these differences, and trying to understand them. It seems that this objectivity may even make the local-foreign distinction of researchers irrelevant. In her talk, Dr. Holloway presented how she obtained such objectivity through her research. The lecture based on her real experiences was stimulating for postgraduate and graduate students who are conducting international comparative studies.

In the last half of the lecture, Dr. Holloway talked about her other research published as Women and Family in Contemporary Japan by Cambridge University Press (2010). She pointed out that Japanese society had a tendency to overstress the value of traditional culture and to judge contemporary women who refuse to take a traditional “good-wife wise-mother” role as selfish. She added that the government and other public institutions dealing with women’s issues must listen to women’s voices more carefully and understand contemporary matters of concerns to women, instead of institutionally reinforcing the outdated cultural discourse of wife and mother. The lecture concluded with an encouragement that changes in our lives must be brought about by questioning practices which claim that people are acting according to cultural values.

  Kumi Yoshihara (Project Research Fellow, IGS)

Dr. Susan D. Holloway