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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

EAST3155 Nature, Culture and Technology in Japan

20 creditsClass Size: 48

Module manager: Dr Irena Hayter

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

In the West, nature, culture and technology are often seen as absolute entities forming an irreconcilable tripartite opposition. Focusing on Japan, this module dismantles these distinctions, showing nature and technology as profoundly acculturated as well as historically contingent. Through a relational and contextual approach, the module analyses the co-existence in Japan of the cutting-edge (for example, humanoid robots) and the obsolete (fax machines, among others). It also unravels the seeming contradiction between a fabled love of nature and modern Japan’s record of environmental destruction. By foregrounding non-Western knowledges and practices, the module contributes a decolonizing perspective to the environmental humanities.


The module aims to:
• Introduce students to different configurations of the relationships between nature, culture and technology in Japan through a historical perspective
• Enhance students’ skills for literary and visual analysis through work with cultural representations of nature and technology in a range of genres: film (documentary, narrative film, anime), literature, art, and popular culture.
• Build critical awareness of concepts of nature and technology as contextually, historically and culturally conditioned
• Encourage reflection on how historical experience, folk beliefs, modernization and cultural practices have contributed to distinctive images of nature and technology in Japan
• Introduce students to relevant theoretical approaches in environmental humanities
• Stimulate an exploration of culturally distinctive and historically removed ideas of nature that can contribute insights to tackling environmental catastrophe from a non-Western perspective

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students should be able to
1. consider how climactic, social and religious factors have shaped distinctive ideas about nature and technology in Japan
2. analyse critically a range of primary materials (text-based and visual) related to the topics of the module
3. discuss and critique monolithic and ahistorical ideas about the highly gendered and cultured constellation of nature and technology in Japan – including the presumed superiority of Western thought
4. demonstrate familiarity with theoretical frameworks related to ecocriticism and environmentalism, especially those concerning gender
5. apply their knowledge of Japan for cross-cultural and trans-historic interventions to move global debates and policies beyond the current cultural condition – e.g. can Buddhism help in reining in consumerism and the destruction of natural environments?


Topics might include Shinto ideas of animism and how they inform culturally-inflected thinking about technology, including robotics. Buddhist notions of nature and seasonality as represented in Japanese literature, both classical and modern, might also be examined. The module will also consider such areas as the alignment of women with nature in both folk belief and literature. revolts against technology, ranging from the vitalism of the interwar years, to protest movements against industrial pollution and nuclear power, and critiques of techno-Orientalism and robo-sexism as seen in anime and popular discourses about science and technology.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Group class activities (weekly during the seminars); individual weekly presentations during the seminars.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,500 words70.00
Oral Presentation1 x 15–20 min, during seminars throughout the semester30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Essay: By the end of week 8, the students will be required to formulate essay topics, which, after feedback from the tutor, will be finalised in week 11. Due first week of exam period

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:13:10


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