Japan and Black America: A Long Road of Discovery

Travel to Kyoto, Japan, for an interdisciplinary course that will explore tradition from the early 20th century African American scholars and journalists’ fascination with Japan as a powerful non-European empire, to the late 20th century popularity of hip hop in Japan.

Kyoto, Japan: June 18 - July 27

Application Deadline: February 13, 2018

About the Seminar

According to popular imagery there are hardly two cultures that are more different than those of the Japanese and Black Americans. And yet, despite these perceived differences, for over a century there has been abundant and complex cultural sharing, borrowing, and exchange between them. This interdisciplinary course will explore this tradition from the early 20th century African American scholars and journalists’ fascination with Japan as a powerful non-European empire, to the late 20th century popularity of hip hop in Japan. In between we will explore the cross-cultural flows of jazz, fashion design, visual arts, Zen Buddhism, Pentecostalism, musical theater, anime, manga, and international race politics. Course assignments will include scholarly writings as well as exhibition catalogs, live and recorded music, memoir, and film. In addition to investigating creative cultural pairings, we will explore vexing issues that frequently appear when people with distinct histories and traditions imagine each other, such as: What constitutes cultural appropriation vs. cultural sharing? Which forms of mimicry are respectful and which are offensive? Can forms of identity be borrowed and reconstituted in a different locale? And, how does the meaning of art shift when its social and political context changes?

The seminar will include classes in Japanese. Excursions will include visits to the Kyoto International Manga Museum, record shops Discland Jaro and Technique and the Blue Note Tokyo Jazz Club.

Faculty Director

Imani Perry is the Hughes-Rogers professor of African American studies at Princeton University, where she is also affiliated with the Programs in Law and Public Affairs and Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is the author of: More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States (NYU, 2011) and Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (Duke, 2004) as well as numerous articles in the fields of law, cultural studies and African American studies. She has a forthcoming book on the history of the Black National anthem from Oxford University Press and another on gender, neoliberalism and the digital age from Duke University Press.

Seminar Manager

Nikki Woolward
146 Louis A. Simpson International Building

Distribution Requirements

The course fulfills the Social Analysis (SA) requirement and the departmental requirements for African American Studies (AAS) and East Asian Studies (EAS).

Costs and Financial Aid

The course fee is $5,000, which includes all housing, required course excursions, related academic expenses, estimated personal meals ($1,200), and estimated airfare ($1,450). World Travel, the University travel agency, will book all participants’ flights. Details on the required booking process will be provided by seminar administrators.

All participants should budget an additional $1,200 for personal expenses. Participants should also be prepared to cover costs of required and routine immunizations as recommended by University Health Services. The immunization costs are covered in full for students enrolled in the University’s Student Health Plan. For students covered by families’ health insurance or other insurance plans, the associated costs will vary.

PIIRS provides generous funding to help meet these costs to participants who receive term financial aid. Students accepted into a Global Seminar and receive term financial aid will automatically receive funding toward the course fee based on the level of term aid. Possibilities for additional financial support may be available through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE). Princeton subsidized Student Loans, available from the Office of Financial Aid, are also highly recommended over charging costs to a credit card. Please consult Financing Options and contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information.

Students who accept a place in a Global Seminar and then, on or after Friday, April 13, withdraw or cannot participate because they are no longer enrolled at Princeton will be charged a $500 cancellation fee and lose any unrecoverable costs. There are no refunds after the start of the program.​

This seminar is generously supported by the Holly and Henry Wendt, Class of 1955, Global Seminar Fund. PIIRS Global Seminars are also made possible in part by the generous contributions of alumni and friends and ongoing efforts of the Office of Development.