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Study Abroad


West Meets East: U.S. Cross-Cultural Encounters with Japan

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This course is now accepting applications for the Winter 2014 term.

UMAIE Course Number: T4224
SAU Course Equivalency:  IS210, Selected Topics in Culture and Civilization (four credits)
Instructors: Dr. Louise Edwards-Simpson, Asst. Professor of History and Cecilia Konchar Farr, Professor of English, St. Catherine University
Dates: January 3-25, 2014. (NOTE: SAU classes begin January 15)
Location: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Tokyo, Yokahoma, Honolulu
Price: $7,595 (subject to change)

Program description

For the course "West Meets East: U.S. Cross-cultural Encounters with Japan" we will travel to both Japan and Hawaii, visiting important historical and cultural sites as we aim to understand the partnership, conflict and mutual fascination that developed as Americans encountered the Japanese-and as many Japanese became American. We will meet with local academics, and we will share classroom experiences with Japanese students of American Studies in the historic city of Yokohama.

We will use the concept of Public History as an interpretive framework. According to the National Council on Public History, it describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world. In this sense, it is history that is applied to real-world issues. Although public historians can sometimes be teachers, public history is usually defined as history beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. It can include the myriad ways that history is consumed by the general public by making pilgrimages to battlefields and memorials, visiting museums, watching television documentaries, volunteering with historical societies, and researching family histories. In our course students will be encouraged to analyze the "texts" curated in the various sites, monuments, memorials, shrines and museums we visit.

The course will turn on three key cultural moments beginning in 1853; when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with gunboats in Tokyo Bay, thereby ending 250 years of Japanese isolation from the Western world. In the late nineteenth century, some 400,000 Japanese contract laborers immigrated to California and Hawaii, creating more sustained contact with a quickly-changing American culture, roiled by waves of immigration. Americans were fascinated and threatened by their encounters with Japanese laborers who helped build the American West and establish a neocolonial empire in Hawaii.

The Second World War will be our second historical moment. Consideration of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the internment of 300,000 Japanese-Americans in detention camps, the vilification of the Japanese as the "yellow peril," the brutal fighting in the Pacific War, and finally the US decision to drop two atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all point to the terrible consequences of unbridled militarism for both countries. The U.S. defined the terms of a peace treaty in 1945, wrote the new Japanese constitution and installed General Douglas MacArthur and his army to occupy postwar Japan until 1952.

Finally, we will examine the 21st century cultural exchange that has American students reading Japanese manga, watching anime and playing Japanese video games. Growing up with Pokemon and Miyazaki films, American students of this generation are negotiating new and more productive cross-cultural encounters with Japan.
Using historical and literary texts we will explore this complicated story of economic ties and competition, war and peace, cultural exchange and conflict. In class discussions and writing assignments, we will engage in critical analysis of a variety of fictional and first person narratives, mainly by Japanese-American writers, who reflect on these global events.

What is included

  • Round-trip airfare from Moline, Chicago or Minneapolis 
  • Accommodation
  • Field trips and entrance fees
  • Travel assistance
  • International health insurance

What is not included

  • Passport fees
  • Transportation to/from airport
  • Fees for textbooks and materials
  • Meals 
  • Personal baggage fees

How to apply

Priority Deadline: April 12, 2013
Complete the online study abroad application and submit a $500 application deposit to the Center for International Education (Lower Cosgrove).

Applications will be accepted until October 1.
Students that apply after the April 12 Priority Deadline may find that their desired program is full.

  • Follow the application instructions carefully.
  • Applications will not be reviewed until all application materials have been received.
  • Make checks payable to Seminars International.
  • The $500 application deposit is deducted from the total program cost.
  • If you are not accepted into the program, or if the program is cancelled, the application deposit is refundable.
  • If you are accepted, the application deposit is non-refundable after September 17.

Payment deadlines

  • November 1, 2013: remaining balance due

Payment details

  • Failure to meet payment deadlines may jeopardize your place in the program.
  • Please submit your final payment to Student Account Services by November 1.
  • The final payment is non-refundable after November 1.