Specialization of our Department

The Vienna School of Japanese Studies has earned a worldwide reputation for consolidating the philological roots, the anthropological/ethnographic tradition and the reflexive social sciences from various strands of Japanese Studies under one umbrella. Our research as well as our teaching activities display an understanding of Japanese Studies as interdisciplinary area studies. The methodical-theoretical variety required for this approach is provided by our chairs for cultural and social scientific Japanese Studies and their respective team members.

The foundation of our approach to Japanese Studies is a high competence in the written and spoken use of the Japanese language. Our academic education provides students with the tools, social and cultural theories, methods as well as intercultural competencies required for a sophisticated engagement with Japan.

 

Our Main Fields of Study

Diaspora and Transnationalism

A current focus of the 2010s builds on recent developments in the international debate and attempts to practice Japanese studies from marginalized perspectives. Ina Hein, as a cultural studies scholar, examines representations of people with immigrantion background in contemporary Japan. Wolfram Manzenreiter focusses on issues of international migration, the situation of emigrant communities in South America and other target areas of emigration, the continuity of national and ethnic identities as well as identity politics in transnational spaces.

Visual Culture

The Visual Turn in the Cultural Studies in the early 2000s has left a lasting impression on Japanese studies in Vienna. Roland Domenig has pioneered the examination of Japanese cinema, especially the early stages of cinematic history. Sepp Linhart, with the support of FWF, created a trilingual database of  ukiyo-e , explaining approximately 1.500 caricatures and comical illustrations. His team investigated the widespread woodblock prints of the 19th century in their function and social implications as a mass medium that informed readers about current affairs in an amusing manner, allowing for subtle political criticism. Results of this research were discussed at an international conference and published, along with further contributions, in our monograph series  BZJ [Contributions to Japanese Studies] . Finally, the occupation of the Chair of Cultural Studies Research on Japan was realized in light of the exponentially rising importance of Japanese visual media for the aesthetics of a globalized popular culture. Students in the master's program are increasingly focusing in their theses on specific aspects in manga, anime, television and film.

Women in Japan

The academic study of women-related issues has a long-standing tradition in the department, beginning in the late seventies with the establishment of a research group headed by Elfriede Kurz. As part of this research focus, a Symposium on "Women in Japan in the Past and Present" was held in 1980, organized by Sepp Linhart and his staff. The conference papers, as well as the results of a second event, which was held in 1987 in the context of the 8th Japan-seminar ("Japan's Women Today") in collaboration with Volkshochschule Brigittenau, organized by Ruth Linhart and Fleur Wöss, have been published in print. In the eighties, especially Ruth Linhart was active in the area of Women's Studies and contributed greatly to the correction of stereotypical images of Japanese women through a number of publications. The results of the research group are manifested in a series of articles published in edited volumes and journals. Significant contributions were also made by students in this project: Master's theses covered topics such as Japanese women's clubs, the image of women in Japanese comics, women as founder personalities in the New Religions, gendered language use, midwives, unwed mothers, marriage bureaux and the Oshin-boom have been studied .

Ingrid Getreuer-Kargl and Ina Hein are continuing this tradition of Japanese Studies from the perspective of feminism and gender studies. Ingrid Getreuer-Kargl's habilitation dissertation investigated the gender-specific use and interpretation of space and spatiality in Japan. Ina Hein examines constructions of masculinities, femininities and gender relations in contemporary literature, on television shows and in other media from a literature- and media-studies perspective.

Aging in Japan

After the re-orientation of the Japanese Studies in Vienna, away from rural culture towards urbanized and industrialized Japanese society, the first major research focus was dedicated to the topic of old age and aging in contemporary Japan. The fruits of this research focus are numerous publications of the Institute's team members, theses and in Institut's collection of literature on the subject, which is unique throughout Europe. Especially the bibliographies for Western and Japanese literature and a data compilation of relevant statistics published in the Institute's monograph series "Beiträge zur Japanoplogie [Contributions to Japanes Studies]" deserve to be highlighted. Sepp Linhart has investigated the institutionalized offers for the elderly in Japan, the pension system, the social evaluation of age and the way Japanese society deals with the specific problems of aging and the elderly. Ingrid Getreuer-Kargl has empirically investigated social policies for old age and devoted her subsequent work especially to the specific problems of older women. Fleur Wöss has taken up the issue of old people, old age and death within her religio-sociological studies on the social function of ancestor worship and attitudes towards death. Diploma theses have examined the living arrangements of three-generation households, the system of age limits, the institutionalization of the elderly and the iconography of old people in Japanese fairy tales and in setsuwa-literature during the Kamakura period. The only Japanese Studies-jobs in Austria outside the University of Vienna originated at the Institute of Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the project "Age and Ageing in Japan". Two monographs authored by Susanne Formanek and Bernhard Scheid document the position of the elderly and the attitude towards the elderly in Japan from the Nara period to the Edo period. As part of it's publication series, the institute released the conference proceedings "Japanese Biographies: Life Histories, Life Cycles, Life Stages" (1990), as well as "Aging. Asian Concepts and Experiences. Past and Present" (1997). Japan-related gerontological research has continued into the 21st century in Vienna. An ongoing project, initiated in the 1980s, is analyzing opinion polls since 1960 with regard to relevant statements on issues of age and the situation of old people in Japan.

Games and Entertainment in Japan

The research focus of the 1990s, "Games and Entertainment in Japan", dealt with a subject which had hitherto received little attention internationally. In contrast, Sepp Linhart had alread already empirically investigated leisure behavior of Japanese workers and employees since the 1970s. Apart from Linhart, Wolfram Manzenreiter researched and published on this topic, especially with his annotated bibliography for leisure in Japan, as well as studies on gambling and the social history of mountaineering in Japan. Master's and dissertation theses written in the timeframe of this research focus included topics such as machine gambling and horse racing, national and international tourism, baseball, golf and martial arts or traditional games such as  sugoroku  and  kōdō . Just like Linhart's cultural history of the Ken-game, various interdisciplinary community studies that arose under the lead of internationally leading figures in the field, these individual works demonstrate the diversity of Japanese entertainment, the creativity of the playful, its subversive potential and its own aesthetics. But they also point to the socio-economic dimension of the private and the cultural embeddedness of games. The study of games, sports and leisure has left its mark until the 2010s. Wolfram Manzenreiter continued to develop leisure studies with a forced integration of Japanese studies research into other social science disciplines. His main area of interest were the exploration of soccer as a cultural phenomenon in Japan and East Asia, the sociology of sports events and the role of Japan in processes and structures of globalization. In particular, his habilitation dissertation  Sport and Body Politics in Japan  documents the wide range of approaches and perspectives that can lead to fruitful results for social science research on Japan and society in general when examining sports-related issues.

From 2001 to 2009, eight symposia on the subject of "Everyday Life and Leisure in Vienna and Tokyo" took place in collaboration with Meiji University, with the locale alternating between Tokyo and Vienna. The results of the individual events, which examined with various facets of the topic in a comparative manner in the context of the era of modernity, were published half in German, half in Japanese.

 

History of Japanese Studies in Vienna

The first evidence of a scientific engagement of Austrians with Japan date back to the mid-19th century. A donation of Japanese books by Philipp Franz von Siebold to the Imperial Court Library in 1837 layed the foundation for August Pfizmaiers (1808-1887) Japan-specific work. With  Sechs Wandschirme in Gestalten der vergänglichen Welt [Six folding screens in figures of the ephemeral world]  ( Ukiyogata rokumai byobu  by Ryūtei Tanehiko) in 1847, the first translation of Japanese literature into a European language, Pfizmaier layed the groundwork for both Austrian Japanese studies research and his own immense life's work of translations from and philological studies on the languages ​​of the Far East. Another pioneer was the Viennese linguist Anton Boller (1811 - 1869), whose  Nachweis, dass das Japanische zum ural-altaischen Stamme gehört [Evidence that the Japanese is part of the Ural-Altaic Tribe]  (1857) is still considered exemplary in the comparative linguistics for the impressive creative urge of European orientalists of the 19th century.

The 1872 expedition report for the Imperial and Royal Eastasia-Expedition, authored by its scientific director, Karl Ritter von Scherzer (1821 - 1903), presented the first Austrian regional studies-compendium on Japan, including practical details of agriculture, transportation, finance, etc.. A similarly broad anthology was published for a wider audience by the physician Albert Junker of Langegg after his years as a surgeon and professor at what was to become the Medical University of Kyoto. Heinrich Freiherr von Siebold (1852-1908), younger son of the great Philipp Franz von Siebold spent a quarter of a century working as a translator at the Austrian embassy in Tokyo. His contributions to Japanese Archaeology and Ethnography of the Ainu deserve, despite their shortcomings and nowadays obvious mistakes, to be called pioneering works.

The first attempt at institutionalizing Japanese studies in Austria was carried out by the cultural anthropologist Oka Masao, who studied ethnology in Vienna in the interwar period. He successfully mediated the establishment of a Japanese studies-department, which came to fruition in 1938 with the verbal support of the Viennese ethnology department and the financial support of Baron Takaharu Mitsui. As a visiting professor, Oka took the chair of the Institute for Japanese Studies, which officially opened its doors on April 1, 1939; first assistant was Alexander Slawik. World War II greatly complicated teaching activities for Oka as well as for his successor Murata Toyofumi until 1944, and the Institute had to be closed. Nelly Naumann, later to become Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Freiburg, was one of the students in this first phase of institutionalized Japanese studies. After the war, the Institute of Ethnology begun engaging in Japan-related research, which was continued from 1949 under Alexander Slawik.