Doing Fieldwork in Japan

This methods course communicates practical fieldwork skills for graduate students pursuing topics in Japanese humanities. It also functions as an introduction to ethnographic filmmaking with a focus on religion. The course is designed to guide students with an interest in documenting their research on video, and more broadly introduces film as a means of understanding challenges particular to the planning and execution of field-based research in Japan. Studying and applying film within the framework of this online course, as shall be shown, can improve the research methods for any student, even when they don’t choose to incorporate filmmaking into their own fieldwork.

Participants in this seminar are expected to engage in dialogue with recent field-based research on Japanese religions. Based on a discussion of the literature provided for each class, we will discuss the challenges of building and maintaining connections with informants in the field, interview techniques, issues of documentation, and theoretical considerations. We will further contextualize our findings by drawing on gender studies, disaster studies, and disability studies, among other sub-fields that participants may propose as relevant for their envisioned or ongoing projects. Active participation in this course involves the willingness to give presentations, and to practice fieldwork by documenting mini test projects on video. No prior fieldwork skills and no video editing skills are expected. Readings and discussions will be in English.