Recently in Careers Category

One of my colleagues asked me about the timeline for publishing my second book. It looked something like this:

2011.12.15 -> Proposal submitted (cover letter and draft ms)
2012.04.23 <- Reader Reports received from Press
2012.04.30 -> Response to Reader Reports submitted (82,500 words)
-- Proposed deadline of 2012.6.1 for final author's ms
2012.06.04 -> Final author's ms sent to Press
2012.06.04 <- Press Board approves ms
2012.06.13 <- Press approves contract
2012.10.01 <- Press copyeditor sends back copyedited ms
2012.11.05 -> Copyedit approvals changes sent by Karen to Press
2013.01.31 <- Press provides final galley/page proofs (PDF)
2013.02.28 -> Page proof changes and approvals sent by Karen to Press
2013.05.19 <- Press receives first copies of book from printing presses
2013.05.20 <- Karen receives first copy
2013.05.23 <- Official publish date of _A Disability of the Soul_

From first contact to publication was 525 days (1 year 5 months and 8 days)

I have to say this is rather fast for an academic press. In my favor:

  • I had worked with the same Press for my first book and had the same editor, so things went smoothly
  • My editor knew that I was coming up for tenure and expedited things
  • I was also highly motivated to get things going quickly

In contrast, my first book took a bit more time. My initial letter (which included the table of contents and two draft chapters) was sent on November 14, 2003. The book was published on July 27, 2006. That is 2 years, 8 months, and 13 days from first contact to publication. However, a good part of this was the year that I spent working on revisions.

Found this site about applying to grad schools. Could be useful for advisees:

From TheProfessorIsIn, much of the same could be said about PhDs in the social sciences...

And nine years later...

Careers: The Professor is In

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One of the graduates of our PhD program (hi Nana!) turned me on to Karen Kelsky's blog and website, TheProfessorIsIn. Kelsky used to be a tenured professor in the field of Japan Anthropology, then dropped out to become a paid academic consultant. The advice she gives on her site is cogent and insightful:
My position is, rather: go in not just with “your eyes open” (as so many Ph.D. program apologists insist) but with a strategy and a game plan. Calculate your chances from start to finish, and maximize them with strategic choices about *which* program, *how much* funding, *what* topic, *which* advisor, *how much* TA-ing, *how* to cut corners, *when* to be selfish, *where* to network, *how* to schmooze, *where* and *when* and *how often* to publish. And so on. Find the job ad for the type of position you want and make every decision based on reaching that goal. Get out quickly. Don’t count on your advisor. Don’t fixate on the dissertation. Protect yourself. Collect your own set of transferrable professional skills.
People wanting to go to graduate school as well as those in grad school should definitely check her site out. Here's the direct link to her blog:

I've collected all the tips on successfully applying to graduate school into a single index page:

Reposted for a colleague:

Funding available for Doctoral Research in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester

Application for a place on a PhD program should be made by mid-February at the latest, in order to be meet further deadlines for funding in March. Applicants are advised to make contact with faculty members who are potential supervisors in advance of formal application. For informal inquiries, please contact: Dr Sharon Kinsella, School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, at

The North West Doctoral Training Centre, jointly run by the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester, is offering 3 PhD studentships in Language-Based Area Studies, in fields which include East Asian Studies and Japanese Studies. These are open to UK and EU students. In addition, the University of Manchester is allocating about 40 President's Doctoral Scholar (PDS) awards to outstanding applicants across the Humanities. Approximately 20 of these PDS awards will top up an AHRC or ESRC award by an additional 1000 pounds, to raise the overall level of funding to 14, 590 pounds. A further 20 awards will be awarded to UK, EU and International applicants without AHRC or ESRC awards and will include tuition fees and an annual allowance of 13, 590 pounds. Successful candidates will be based at the University of Manchester.

The University has wide-ranging expertise in contemporary East Asian Studies with relevant members of staff based across the Faculty of Humanities, particularly in the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, and the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. We will be able to offer supervision on a wide range of topics on modern and contemporary Japan, and in topics involving East Asian societies, media, politics, population, and history.

For description of the North West Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) and of the opportunities for post-graduate studies which it offers, please go to
The deadline for the application for the North West DTC studentships is 25 March, 2011.

For description of the President's Doctoral Scholar (PDS) Awards, please go to
The deadline for applications for the PDS Award is the 1st March 2012.

UK and EU applicants are advised to apply for both awards in order to be eligible for both an ESRC and a PDS award.

Please note that prior to these deadlines you should apply for a place on the PhD programme in one of the two Schools mentioned above. The choice of School will depend on the location of the member of staff you wish to be supervised by and your field of study.

Queer Japan syllabus

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A student asked me for books about sexuality in Japan so I began to think what a preliminary reading list might look like. Here goes. The first half is from my review essay "Chrysanthemum and the Queer":
  • EMERGING LESBIAN VOICES FROM JAPAN. Chalmers, Sharon. New York: Routledge Curzon, 2002.
  • COMING OUT IN JAPAN: THE STORY OF SATURO AND RYUTA. Ito, Satoru, and Ryuta Yanase. Melbourne and Portland, OR: Trans Pacific Press, 2001.
  • LOVE UPON THE CHOPPING BOARD. Izumo, Marou, and Claire Maree. North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex, 2000.
  • MALE COLORS: THE CONSTRUCTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY IN TOKUGAWA JAPAN (1603-1868). Leupp, Gary P. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.
  • CARTOGRAPHIES OF DESIRE: MALE-MALE SEXUALITY IN JAPANESE DISCOURSE 1600-1950. Pflugfelder, Gregory M. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
  • TAKARAZUKA: SEXUAL POLITICS AND POPULAR CULTURE IN MODERN JAPAN. Robertson, Jennifer Ellen. Berkeley, CA: Uni- versity of California Press, 1998, ISBN 0520211510, 1998.
  • 0QUEER JAPAN: PERSONAL STORIES OF JAPANESE LESBIANS, GAYS,TRANSSEXUALS,ANDBISEXUALS.Summerhawk,Barbara, Cheiron McMahill, and Darren McDonald, eds. Norwich, Vt.: New Victoria Publishers, 1998.
  • GREAT MIRRORS SHATTERED: HOMOSEXUALITY, ORI- ENTALISM, AND JAPAN. Treat, John Whittier. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
and some new volumes:
  • Bad Girls of Japan, edited by Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.
  • Queer Voices from Japan: First Person Narratives from Japan's Sexual Minorities Edited by Mark McLelland, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker 2007.
  • Queer Japanese Gender and Sexual Identities through Linguistic Practices Hideko Abe 2010.

My friend BB sent me a link to this article, which analyzes unconscious gender bias in job candidate letter of recommendations.

Recommendation letters could cost women jobs, promotions

A recommendation letter could be the chute in a woman's career ladder, according to ongoing research at Rice University. The comprehensive study shows that qualities mentioned in recommendation letters for women differ sharply from those for men, and those differences may be costing women jobs and promotions in academia and medicine.


The research team also noted that letter writers included more doubt raisers when recommending women, using phrases such as "She might make an excellent leader" versus what they used for male candidates, "He is already an established leader."

"Subtle gender discrimination continues to be rampant," Hebl said. "And it’s important to acknowledge this because you cannot remediate discrimination until you are first aware of it. Our and other research shows that even small differences -- and in our study, the seemingly innocuous choice of words -- can act to create disparity over time and experiences."

Read more:

Right now, I'm writing several letters for students and so it makes me pause to think if I might not be reproducing any of these tropes in my own recommendations:

I just read through a huge stack of applications for an opening at my university.  Here are some of my general tips for job hunters. Mostly the don'ts for now, if I think of a do, I'll post it too

  • Don't send a cover letter for a job at another university. Yes, it's a cliche. And yes, it happens. And no we're not impressed.
  • When formatting your CV, make sure that your PDF file comes out properly. There's nothing like reading a PDF where the fonts weren't embedded and so the formatting is wonky.
  • For a writing sample, send a single-author paper. Really.
  • Curb the "scare quotes." Please.

In the last few months, I've now gotten letters from prospective graduate students with CVs  that suffer from what I would call "Areas of Interest" bloat.   One had twenty-five (25!) areas of interest and the other was also well over a dozen.

This is just too much. Yes, you are young and the whole world looks like a giant oyster -- but too many raw oyster can give you really bad indigestion.

As a general rule, try to keep your areas of interest to less than six or so.   Since I (rarely) try to practice what I preach, here are my "Areas of Interest:"

  • Region 1 (general world region): East Asia
  • Sub-region (country or local area): Japan
  • Topic 1: Disability Studies
  • Topic 2: Politics of Identity and social movements
  • Sub-discipline: Sociocultural and Visual Anthropology

OK, I cheated on the last two bullet points...... anyway, you get my point.

Try to go through your areas of interest with a very fine tooth comb and make sure it's as concise and focused as possible.  Use it as a way to find out which departments might be interested in what you study and vice versa.

I also tell my graduate students to perfect their elevator speech, but that's a topic for an entirely new blog entry.

April is the time for rain, taxes, and decline letters from grad schools. How can you improve your odds of getting into the program you want to next year?

malinowski2.pngWhen grad schools evaluate candidates for their masters and doctoral programs, they generally focus on things such as:

  1. Fit. Are there several faculty members or topical/regional concentrations that make you appealing to the department, and vice versa?
  2. Preparedness. Do you have field experience and know the local language, and have you taken some anthropology classes before? Why are you interested in this site and topic, and will your project have legs?
  3. Intellectual ability. This is generally gauged through the transcripts, letters, and statement of purpose.

How can you improve your strengths in each of these areas?

  1. Fit. Go through the department websites, see how the department describes itself and its topical / regional strengths. Make sure there are several faculty at differing ranks that might be interested in your work, and contact them.
  2. Preparedness. Summer field schools, MA programs, language study.
  3. Intellectual ability. Work on the statement as much as possible. Make sure your letters of recommendation are written by faculty who know you well, think positively of you, and have plenty of time to craft a good letter.

Comments and thoughts more than welcome!

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A portrait of some of our current and former Japan anthropology zemi students at the 2009 American Anthropological Association meeting in Philadelphia.

From left to right, back to front:

  • Karen Nakamura (2001): Disability in Japan
  • Nathaniel Smith (2010): Right Wing Groups in Japan
  • Sarah Le Baron von Bayer (2014): Brazilians in Japan
  • Allison Alexy (2008): Divorce in Japan
  • Annie Claus (2014): Okinawa in Japan

Missing from this portrait are William Kelly (1980): Baseball in Japan, Ellen Rubinstein (2012): Hikikomori in Japan, and Elizabeth Miles (2010 M.A.): Masculinity in Japan .

Just a note that the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association will be held next week in Philadelphia. I'll be in Philly starting Tuesday as part of the Society for Visual Anthropology conference which starts right before it.

Which reminds me, the SVA is cosponsoring an exhibit called Ethnographic Terminalia:

Ethnographic Terminalia

The Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts will feature an innovative group exhibition entitled Ethnographic Terminalia from December 2-20, 2009. Scheduled to coincide with the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, this year in Philadelphia, the curators have brought together an international group of artists and ethnographers who are actively engaged in experimental and emergent cultural forms. Visitors are invited to join in a multisensorial happening that challenges the boundaries and borders that demarcate the margins of ethnographic, anthropological, and art practices. In this exhibition, a diverse group of artists and anthropologists present boundary troubling works in eleven separate installations. Each installation project in Ethnographic Terminalia offers a thought provoking and playful (or agitating) alternative to considering what lies both beyond and within imagined and constructed boundaries of the skilled practices of artists and ethnographers.

This exhibition features original works by: Trudi-Lynn Smith; Erica Lehrer and Hannah Smotrich; Kate Hennessy and Oliver Neumann; Marko and Gordana Zivkovic; Chris Fletcher; Roderick Coover; Jayasinhji Jhala; Craig Campbell; Mike Evans and Stephen Foster; Stephanie Spray; and Scott and Jen Webel. While these works are deployed within the rubric of anthropology they answer visual and aesthetic questions in unique and particular fashion, decentering the priviledged categories of both ethnography and art through various mediums.
According to the curatorial team: “This exhibit will be of great interest not only to professional anthropologists but other publics as well. By drawing the studied methodologies of ethnography into a familiar art environment this collective exhibition delivers an all too uncommon challenge to disciplinary and professional boundaries. By engaging with the politics of representation, memory, documentation, and archive Ethnographic Terminalia will impress upon all visitors their own stake in the interpretation of cultural worlds.” The works presented in Ethnographic Terminalia address the possibility of showing and interpreting cultural worlds outside of the traditional cinematic, museological, and textual frameworks of Cultural Anthroplogy while challenging the art world to consider the sensuous complexities and textures of everyday life.

Visit the website for more details about the show:

Exhibition Opening Reception & Shindig

4 December 2009 7:30-10.00pm


Location: Icebox Project Space at Crane Arts, Philadelphia (PA)

1400 N. American Street

December 2-20, 2009

Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-6pm

Entry is free


Craig Campbell, University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)
Anabelle Rodriguez, Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
Fiona McDonald, University College London (London, England)

Organizational Team:
Kate Hennessy, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)
Stephanie Takaragawa, Chapman University (Orange, CA)

So maybe there are jobs in visual anthro after all?

Assistant Professor New Media Studies

Tenure-track assistant professor in New Media Studies. The Syracuse University English Department is continuing to expand its focus in Film and Visual Culture. Ph. D. must be in hand at time of appointment. Send detailed letter, CV, and names of three references to Professor Erin Mackie, Chair, English Department, 401 Hall of Languages, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-1170. Applications should be postmarked by 16 November 2009. Syracuse University is an EO/AA employer. An offer will be made contingent upon the availability of funds in the FY 2011 budget.

Hope this helps someone.

Prospective graduate students have been writing me for advice about doctoral and masters programs in visual anthropology. Since my previous entry on this topic is outdated, I've decided to update it to the best of my current knowledge.

M.A. Programs

Ph.D. Granting Institutions with Visual Anthropology Programs/Faculty

* Italics = denotes junior faculty member who may or may not be taking on graduate students.

Note that the wikipedia entry on Visual Anthropology also has a very useful list of visual anthropology programs.

I'll keep updating this list, if you have any suggestions, additions, corrections, feel free to e-mail me or drop a comment below. Last updated: 2009/10/23

A potential grad student wrote to me asking about which faculty at Yale worked on queer anthropological topics. Here are the faculty who are interested in, or supportive of, topics regarding gender and sexuality:

  • Jafari Allen (Cuba; Carribean; USA; Black consciousness)
  • Sean Brotherton (Cuba; HIV; biomedicine)
  • Kate Dudley (USA; poverty; South)
  • Karen Nakamura (Japan; disability; identity)

In addition, Prof. Marcia Inhorn does work on gender, health, and reproductive technologies.

One of the more interesting panels at the Association for Asian Studies meeting Chicago was the Japan Image Use Protocol Guide workshop. This was organized by the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources.

Basically, the Image Use Protocol Guide is designed to help academic authors and publishers navigate the somewhat circuitous path to getting image use rights from Japanese copyright holders. The most useful portion for me is the Permission Request Templates that you can use to send to image rights holders (museums, publishers, etc.) asking for permission to reprint photographs in your papers and monographs.

The protocol guide is still in the beta stage and they are asking for comments:

I was reading the latest Anthropology News when I came across a reference to the National Doctoral Program Survey from Arizona State University. I wasn't aware of this. I wanted to put in a link on my blog for people who might be interested in it:

Anthropology programs ranked by best practices:

The NDPS ranks all doctoral programs across all divisions (social sciences, humanities, arts, etc.) and a variety of schools. It's hardly scientific as the sample size of respondents per school is small and self-selected; but it does give a little bit of insight into various programs for people thinking about graduate school -- and an area of possible conversation when chatting with grad schools peers.

Be sure to wander around, you can rank programs on more than just best practices, including areas such as climate and professional development.

Here are two comic-blogs (¿clogs?) that grad students and junior faculty should subscribe to. First, xkcd:

and guest blogger JR also recommends Indexed:

An undergraduate student noted that there weren't many doctoral or masters programs in visual anthropology. The Society for Visual Anthropology has a list that is relatively kept up to date:

  • (link broken)

Update 2009.10: It looks like the SVA didn't archive this page before moving their website to a new system. I used the Wayback Machine to grab the 2008 version of the page and include here (after the jump) as a reference. I'll remove it if the SVA wants me to:

MIT has released a new streaming series on Doing Anthropology at:

My pal CS sent me a link to PhD Comics - a definite must-read for us in the academe.

This cartoon reminds me of my colleague BB:


I'm very pleased to be able to announce that my book Deaf in Japan (Cornell University Press) was awarded the 2008 John Whitney Hall Prize at the Association for Asian Studies 2008 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Below is a photo of me with my wonderful editor, Roger Haydon, of Cornell University Press at the conference.


I recently wrote a short article for the Anthropology News titled: A Case against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later (. Vol. 49, No. 2: 20). Here is a snippet to whet your appetite:

A Case Against Giving Informants Cameras and Coming Back Weeks Later
By Karen Nakamura (Yale U)

Giving informants cameras and asking them to take photographs of their environment is a growing trend in anthropology. The resulting photos are later displayed, analyzed or exhibited as examples of a particularly internal, private or emic view of the world. Students love this technique, which is inexpensive and initially appears to be risk-free, with all of the hallmarks of reflexive anthropology. If not done carefully, however, it can be problematic both ethically and methodologically.


For those who choose to do photoethnographic work that involves providing informants with cameras or video equipment, it is essential to first critically examine the ethical and methodological implications of a project. The anthropologist must consider both the potential harms and benefits that a project might pose for an informant. Possible ways to address these concerns include giving informants high quality photographic equipment (to keep) as well as technical training, so that in the future they can use their new tools and skills for their own purposes, to address their own needs. Informants working for an anthropologists (i.e. completing assigned tasks) should be paid as field assistants. Prior to using an image an anthropologist should receive permission to do so from both the photographer and any people that appear in the photograph. Finally, photography should supplement, not replace, long-term fieldwork–it is time and labor intensive, but ultimately necessary for interpreting and contextualizing visual images from the field.

You can read the rest at the full text PDF.

Comments, criticism, and feedback on this article are more than welcome -- either here or by e-mail.

Hot off the press, Apple just released Mac OS X 10.4.11, otherwise a minor update to the last OS release. I haven't upgraded to PantherCheetahLionLeopard yet (since Yale has a site license and I have to wait until I'm back in the USA) -- but the big thing about 10.4.11 is that it supports the Microsoft Presenter Mouse 8000 -- which I've blogged about before.

Yippee! Keynote here I come!

For more:

Careers: Giving talks

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I gave a lot of talks last year.... at Harvard, Columbia, UBC, NYU and Purdue. I think it's mostly due to my book coming out last year.

I usually talk using Apple Keynote. I rarely read my talks from a written paper and speak semi-extemporaneously. I use the Keynote "presenter display" which gives me my speaker's notes for each slide, a preview of the next slide, and a timer. I think Microsoft PowerPoint has a similar feature. You need a PowerBook or Mac Book Pro to make the "presenter display" function because the lower models can only mirror what's on the data projector and can't give you a separate screen.

UIC's program in disability studies is excellent (and there's a new minor at UCLA after the jump):


The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Disability Studies at the University
of Illinois at Chicago is accepting applications from prospective students
for Fall 2008. The deadline for receipt of full applications is January 1,
2008. UIC's Disability Studies Ph.D. program promotes the development of
new scholarly models for understanding disability. Part of this
intellectual approach involves the education of disabled and non-disabled
academicians, researchers, policy experts, and clinicians who will join
with disabled people in the community as active challengers of oppressive
institutions and environments. The program examines how addressing
disability in its full complexity can promote the full participation, self-
determination, and equal citizenship of people with disabilities in society.

From my inbox:

Sept. 21, 2007)

The Paul G. Hearne/AAPD Leadership Awards program was established to
identify and support emerging leaders with disabilities who will carry on
the disability rights movement. Administered by AAPD and sponsored by the
Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, the 2008 Paul G. Hearne/AAPD
Leadership Awards identifies up to two emerging leaders with disabilities to
each receive $10,000 to help them continue their progress as leaders. These
individuals will also have an opportunity to meet and network with national
disability leaders at the annual AAPD Leadership Gala in Washington, DC in
the spring. Applications are available from
. Apply by: Friday, September 21, 2007.

This entry has been deprecated and replaced with:

Yesterday was Yale's graduation ceremony. I attended for the first time since my own graduation in 2001. We had an excellent crop of graduate students who are going on to do exciting things.

I just finished reading part of Rob Knop's blog about his tenure denial at Vanderbilt University. It makes me aware of just how difficult the job market is and that getting a PhD is just the first step on a long and difficult road:

A prospective doctoral student interested in the anthropology of Japan recently inquired about what schools I'd recommend. I posted a list last year but thought I'd update it for 2007 2012:

Ph.D. Granting Institutions with Japan Faculty)

  • Canada: University of British Columbia - Prof. Millie Creighton
  • USA-CA: Stanford University - Prof. Miyako Inoue
  • USA-CT: Yale University - Profs. William Kelly, Karen Nakamura*
  • USA-HI: University of Hawai'i (Manoa) - Prof. Christine Yano
  • USA-IA: University of Iowa - Prof. Scott Schnell
  • USA-MA: Boston University - Prof. Merry White
  • USA-MA: Harvard University - Prof. Theodore Bestor
  • USA-MO: University of Missouri at St Louis - Prof. Laura Miller
  • USA-NC: Duke University - Prof. Anne Allison
  • USA-NY: Columbia University - Prof. Marilyn Ivy
  • USA-MI: University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) - Prof. Jennifer Robertson
  • USA-PA: University of Pittsburgh - Prof. Gabi Lukakcs

* Italics = denotes junior faculty member who may or may not be taking on graduate students.

M.A. Programs

I'll keep updating this list, if you have any suggestions, additions, corrections, feel free to e-mail me or drop a comment below. Last updated: 2007/09/23

One piece of important information that you should have before entering into salary negotiations is the AAUP national salary survey. This gives average figures for assistant / associate / and full professors at schools across the country. Even community colleges are counted.

Note that the figures for schools with large business schools, law schools, or engineering schools are usually inflated as faculty in those divisions tend to make more than those in the humanities or social sciences.

Also, you need to ask whether your school is paying you on a nine-month salary or a twelve-month. AAUP adjusts all of their data to 9-month salaries, so if the school is offering you US$120,000 for a 12 month salary (let me know where!), AAUP will count it as "only" getting US$90,000.

AAUP survey:

Blog: Going paperless

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This is something I've been meaning to blog about for a while, but I'm going paperless in my office. I've been scanning down my large library of photocopied journal articles and reducing them to PDFs which I store on my RAID network area server. It's a slow process, but I'd like to be done by the end of the semester which is when we're moving office spaces (again).

My current workflow is:

  1. Scan using a Fujitsu ScapSnap
  2. OCR using Adobe Acrobat
  3. Index using Spotlight
  4. Rinse, repeat.

Adobe Acrobat 7.0 for the Mac is buggy and has problems with some of the PDFs that ScanSnap generates, so I'm looking forward to seeing if Acrobat 8 solves them. I haven't been able to find other good OCR solutions for batch processing PDFs so if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

One of my friends (B.B.) has a favorite saying that I particularly like: Never assume malice when incompetence will suffice.

I recently received an e-mail from Professor Torneby of the University of Oslo asking me to advertise one of their summer courses in visual anthropology:

Dear Karen Nakamura,

I would be very thankful if you provided information about this PhD courses to take place in Norway this coming summer, on your blog:

Course title: Contemporary Art and Anthropology:
Challenges of Theory and Practice
Lecturer: Associate Professor Arnd Schneider,
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo
Main disciplines: Anthropology, Fine Arts, Media Studies
Secondary disciplines: Art History/Criticism, Cultural Studies
Dates: 30. July - 3. August 2007
Location, University of Oslo, Norway
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants
Detailed information and online application:

Course objectives:
This course will look at recent border crossings between art and anthropology, and explore the epistemological challenges arising from it. Following the so-called ‘ethnographic turn’, contemporary artists have adopted an ‘anthropological’ gaze, including methodologies, such as fieldwork, in their appropriation of other cultures. Anthropologists, on the other hand, in the wake of the ‘writing culture’ critique of the 1980s, are starting to explore new forms of visual research and representation beyond written texts.

This course will explore the potential for future collaborations between art and anthropology. The curriculum will be based on an examination of key texts, and review of a number of paradigmatic artists and issues (such as, fieldwork/ site-specific ethnography, appropriation, research in and representation of different sensual domains/’synaesthesia’).

In its workshops and assessment options the course encourages presentation and submission of practice-based visual work.

The course format is lectures and workshops, in which students are encouraged to present their work in progress.

The course is interdisciplinary and directed at doctoral students and researchers in the social sciences, humanities, and in the visual arts (including anthropology/visual anthropology, sociology, art criticism, art history, fine arts, film practice and studies, design, media practice and cultural studies).
Best regards,

Tron Harald Torneby
The Faculty of Social Sciences
The University of Oslo
P.O.Box 1084 Blindern
NO-0317 Oslo
Oslo Summer School in Comparative
Social Sciences Studies 2007

Sounds great!

I was asked the other day by a graduate student about how to get published by a university press. I thought the easiest thing to do was to post the letter that I wrote to Cornell University Press back in 2003 proposing the book that eventually became Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity.

November 14, 2003

Roger Haydon
Senior Editor
Cornell University Press
Sage House
512 East State Street
Ithaca NY 14850

Dear Mr. Haydon:

I enjoyed meeting you earlier this year at the Asian Studies conference. I regret that we did not have the opportunity to talk further in depth about the manuscript that I am currently working on and apologize for the delay in sending you the proposal. Cornell University Press has a reputation for cutting edge work in Asian Studies that blends political science, ethnography and history. I am excited by the opportunity of working with you on this project.

That’s Sign Fascism!: The Conflict Over Deaf Identity and Sign Language in Contemporary Japan is the story of the development of deaf communities, minority identities, and political movements. It is designed to be able to be read in introductory Japanese culture and history, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Deaf Studies, and Disability Studies, courses as well as focused topic courses in those areas.

In my book, I trace the history and development of deaf identity from the turn of the 19th century, linking deaf identity with early Showa and post-War modernization and industrialization discourses. I embed oral histories (well... in reality they were signed histories) from deaf women in the different generational cohorts to illustrate how larger social and political forces have shaped individual life stories.

The title refers to a comment made by one of the leaders within the somewhat assimilationist (albeit communist-inflected) Japanese Federation of the Deaf. She was incensed by the new generation of deaf activists who were adopting an American-style, radical, separationist deaf identity. The youth activists were claiming that they were the true bearers of a “pure JSL” (Japanese Sign Language) and attempting to control the lexicon and grammar through various means. The book ends by exploring how the language wars around Japanese signing are evidence of changing generational attitudes towards disability, identity, and culture in Japan.

Written for advanced undergraduates and interested laypeople, this ethnography appeals to several readerships. Deafness has characteristics of both ethnic minority as well as disability status. Those interested in minority groups in Japan will be attracted to my explicit analysis and comparison of the deaf against other Japanese minority groups (including the Burakumin and zainichi Koreans). As you may know, several volumes on minorities in Japan have come out in the past several years, indicating that this is increasingly an area of scholarly interest. Sonia Ryang’s recent edited volume on Koreans in Japan, the slate of books on Brazilian Nikkeijin, and the interest in Okinawan studies all point to minority studies as an area of growth in Japan Studies and Asian Studies.

My book also contributes to the growing field of Deafness and Disability Studies. While there are numerous texts on deaf communities in Western contexts, there are not many books that deal with deafness or disability cross-culturally. My co-edited volume Many Ways to be Deaf (Gallaudet University Press) released this summer has already sold 300 units in the first month, according to my most recent royalty statement. This is as a $70 344-page hardcover volume with little advertising. I have no doubt that a paperback monograph on deafness in Japan will have much broader appeal in deaf and disability studies, similar to Nora Groce’s (1988) classic Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language (Harvard U Press), which is ranked 78,000th in and which has gone back to print several times. In terms of CUP publications, I would situate my text between Ellis Krauss’ Broadcasting Politics in Japan and Joshua Roth’s Brokered Homeland.

I’m enclosing a table of contents and the first two chapters for your consideration. Please also find enclosed a reprint of my Social Sciences Japan Journal article, which was awarded the 2003 ISS/Oxford University Press Award for Modern Japanese Studies and is based on a chapter of this book.

I would like to sign a contract at your earliest convenience with the manuscript to be submitted by May 2004. As I will be working on a new project by August 2004 funded through the Abe Fellowship, I have considerable incentive to finish this project by the end of next summer.

Karen Nakamura
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Macalester College

So I'm starting to get the first round of ding letters from the various film festivals that I applied to last year.* One of the things I hadn't realized going into this was just how competitive the film festival market is. One festival I applied to received 1700 films, and they could screen less than a hundred (including shorts).

*In the next few months, we're also sending ding/acceptance letters for job searches as well as applications to the PhD program.

This means that the chances of getting into a film festival (assuming random probability, which it isn't) is 1:17. That would mean it's harder to get into a competitive film festival than it is to get into Yale College! :-)

Here are some other acceptance to application ratios in my experience: Yale anthropology PhD program 1:20; academic journal ratio 1:5 (?roughly¿); anthro teaching job 1:150. So getting into a film festival isn't as hard as getting a job, but ranks up there!

We had an Ethnography and Social Theory colloquium today on the topic of organizational software for the field. Several graduate students and one of the senior faculty presented. Here are my very rough notes.

Allison Alexy's (Mac-based) suggestions for organizing your life / fieldnotes:

Professor William Kelly's (Windows) suggestions:

  • Biblioscape -- bibliographic database
  • Window's Explorer Plus -- file management
  • WhizFolders -- note taking and fieldnote database
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking -- speech recognition / transcription software, great for taking reading-notes, transcribing dictated fieldnotes, etc.

Gavin Whitelaw's field tips and solutions:

  • tupperware in the field -- for organizing/carrying gadgets (esp. post-9/11)
  • Mini-mini-tripod -- esp. for taping shows off streaming sites
  • Using your digital camera as a portable scanner / portable photocopier, taking photos of texts etc.
  • Quick-release for digital camera on tripod
  • Two small digital cameras -- one to work, and one as a backup; with large LCD preview/review screen (to show informants photos or to review on the train, etc.)
  • Portable USB or Firewire back-up drive -- to backup fieldnotes in the field, every night (alternately, use your iPod)
  • iPhoto / Portfolio / Lightroom, or other photo management software -- be sure to tag all your photos, but try to keep the number of keywords to a minimum, less than 30 if possible
  • Using digital camera as another form of fieldnotes -- take photos of everything and everything
  • TypePad -- personal and public blogging, personal/private blog as an easy way to clip articles, tag information, etc.
  • Take screenshots / print to PDF of any website you've seen and want to keep (since websites change constantly)

Other topics:

  • Cpen 20 - pen scanner, to scan documents on the fly
  • Solar power / AC-inverters for places without power
  • Copywrite note taking software
  • WordPress, Joomla, or MediaWiki -- content management systems -- blogging software that can be reused as fieldnote management
  • Zotero -- firefox extension that almost works like a bibliographic reference

My own suggestions:

  • Canon LIDE scanner -- small, lightweight scanner, easily bookbaggable
  • Sharp Zaurus -- small microportable computer, can easily get recharged

Feel free to post other suggestions as well!

In random googling of the net, I came across the Disability History Association. I've never heard of them, but they going to have their 121st annual meeting, so they must have been around for a while. Interesting sections of their website include their Teaching Resources and recent publications.

This question came in as a comment to an older blog entry:

How do you choose which school to apply to? I've heard conflicting advice (choose the school based on the faculty member you want to work with [be willing to take Michigan over Harvard], go for the name [Yale over Berkeley, for example], etc, etc)

Posted by: mac at May 31, 2005 3:09 AM

I thought I'd repost the response as a separate entry as it might get otherwise missed and some applicants have been asking me similar questions recently. It's been slightly edited.

I've recently gotten several e-mails from people interested in graduate programs in Deaf Studies or Disability Studies within Anthropology. I've come up with the following list to help people narrow down their choice of schools. It's still very tentative and I would greatly appreciate feedback from people who know of other programs.

Note that for the most part I have only listed places where there are faculty active in Deaf Studies or Disability Studies. However, most of us are first generation scholars -- we received our PhDs at programs where there was nobody who focused in Deaf culture or disability. I do not think we are yet at the second generation of scholarship yet -- where people will be studying more or less in specialized programs. Thus, you should not narrow your focus to only the programs listed, but also look for programs that are strong either in your areal speciality (geographic region) or topical speciality (such as language ideology; biomedicine and social institutions; etc.). You can always ask one of the people listed below to serve as an external committee member or dissertation reader.

Alex Halavais has just retired from teaching at University of Buffalo. His parting essay is a plea to his students to try hard and work smarter ... at cheating:

I would prefer that students don’t cheat. Yes, they really are mostly cheating themselves, so fine. But it also reflects poorly on the community. Rationally or not, what particularly irks me is that it is disrespectful: of me, of their fellow students, of the university, of the institution of learning, and of themselves. And—did I mention—of me? It is particularly irksome when their cheating implies (reminds?) that I am a fool.

So, to help students across the country cheat better, saving themselves both from easy detection and from incurring the wrath of insulted faculty, and leading to a much more harmonious school environment, I offer the following tips, based on recent experience:


4. Dont rite to good

When you “write” a sentence like “The veil of ignorance, to mention one prominent feature of that position, has no specific metaphysical implications concerning the nature of the self; it does not imply that the self is ontologically prior to the facts about persons that the parties are excluded from knowing,” you have two ways of being caught up. First, while I make no claim of having anything approaching an eidetic memory (more like an idyllic memory), it may ring some dusty bells and heck, I might be able to pull the book you stole it from down off my shelf, even if you followed the advice of #3. If my memory fails to serve, as is frequently the case these days, Google Print might help out.

As a corollary here, try not to plagiarize the teacher. You will be less likely to suffer her ire, since it will amuse her and her colleagues to no end, but you are more likely to be caught. Steal her ideas and rephrase them in your own prose, because there is nothing teachers like more than knowing that students can write well but have no original ideas.

Read his entire essay here:

An undergraduate in Canada recently wrote me asking whether visual anthropology was a valid field of study for an M.A. or Ph.D. I won't post her original letter here, but here is an excerpt of my response (from which you can deduce her queries):

Dear XXX -

Thank you for your e-mail. I apologize that I will not be able to reply at length as I am about to leave for the field. I took the opportunity to look at your website. Your photographs are quite well done, evocative and emotional.


What is ethnographic photography? As with regular print ethnography, there is no single type. However, as with written ethnography there is a purpose. Look through the print ethnographies that you have found particularly evocative (one of my favorites is Lila Abu Lughod's Veiled Sentiments) and ask what the author is trying to do in the work. Then ask yourself how you would do this in the medium of your choosing.

To answer your other questions in brief:

  1. Visual anthropology is on the margins of the discipline. Few programs offer degrees in it and there are even fewer jobs.
  2. It is my own belief that photography or film work that isn't backed by participant-observation research is weaker than that that is. If your goal is to fly in, take photos, and fly out, then you might want to pursue a degree in journalism.
  3. There are dwindling grants for visual social science research. You would most likely apply to standard anthropology grants -- which means that your work should speak to the discipline of anthropology in some way.

Explore the reading lists posted on my course website for further direction.


Karen Nakamura

The English department at Ohio State University has put together an incredibly useful manual for new faculty. While it's in a folder marked "internal" they didn't tell the google robot not to index it, and I encountered it while searching for something else.

I wish all departments or colleges would put together something this comprehensive. Skip over the first sections which deal with photocopying and mailing codes, and go to the meaty mentoring sections. Here's one example:


Yup, it’s a major part of your job here.

I. Productivity
Finish your book. Many of those of us who have been at OSU for some years sense that, along with the omnipresent discourse of “excellence” that surrounds us in OSU’s quest to improve its national rankings, the bar at tenure time has been raised. Make no mistake: you are expected to have produced a completed book manuscript in contract to a reputable press by the time of your sixth-year review. [In fact, the language is ratcheting up a bit from the College; the guideline is now to have a book ‘in production’ by the time of your sixth-year review—which means in copy-editing or proofs if not already between covers. And you’re also expected to have some journal publications by tenure time, though, happily, these can be excerpts from your book—JG.] You can dicker with this pronouncement if you care to, because everyone can produce anecdotally an exceptional case in which things didn’t go as expected one way or the other: someone without a book contract got tenure or someone who did didn’t. The basic message is quite clear though, and the days when someone can get tenure without a contract by the time of the departmental review are over. Write. Get the time off to get your research done by applying for our generous research quarters (see section II below). Do not overburden yourself with unnecessary committee work. (By unnecessary, I mean beyond what the Department expects of you. You can volunteer for extra committees till Doomsday instead of writing your book and you’ll still be doomed at tenure time.) Do not procrastinate. Do not assume you will be an exceptional case because everyone likes you so much. Get your book written by your fourth-year review so that it can be in contract by sixth-year review. It takes a long time to submit a manuscript to a press, to wait for replies, and perhaps to have to send the ms. to another press. Don’t wait until the last minute or you might hang yourself. As Jim Phelan puts it, “don’t do brinksmanship!”

Does your department or college have a manual for new faculty? If so, post a link to this site.

I've recently read a fascinating book called Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences by Andrew Abbott. This book explores the various ways by which social scientists develop and test the hypotheses and heuristics that drive their work. It's fascinating reading and highly recommended to graduate students about to begin their studies (or writing up their dissertations).

The book made me a bit reflective about my own doctoral studies, especially as my first book is about to be published by Cornell University Press this summer. My hypothesis going into field work was:

Changes in deaf identity in Japan were due to globalization effects and the importation of American cultural Deaf identity principles by younger deaf activists.

After I spent more time, my hypothesis was revised to:

Although it would on first glance appear to be biologically bound, deaf identity is constructed through individual interaction with social institutions (most importantly: schools for the deaf and associations of the deaf). In order to understand generational changes in deaf cohorts, one must begin with a study of the particular histories and institutional environments that members of those cohorts experienced.

Most of my book is a narrative history of deaf communities in Japan, interspliced with microhistories of five deaf women born into the three main cohorts that I explore.

When I was in graduate school, there was no discussion about how one's choice of research topic would affect your marketability. The general atmosphere at most programs is that marketability is a bad word, that you need to focus on being the best scholar possible, that you need to pursue your intellectual passion with no thought as to how your findings will be received.

I am swayed by this argument but I do think graduate students need to give some thought about how their topics will be received by other scholars. While you shouldn't change topics to match market demands (as no one knows what the market will be in 10 years or what topics will be hot), you should at least think about the intellectual "spin" that you choose to attach to it.

From the New York Time's ethicist's mail bag:

After I was scheduled for a job interview at a university, a member of the search committee Googled me and found my blog, where I refer to him (but not by name) as a belligerent jerk. He canceled the interview. It was impolitic to write what I did, but my believing him to be a jerk does not mean I would not be great at that job, and the rest of the committee might agree. Was it ethical of him to cancel the interview? Ciara Healy, Augusta, Ga. (read more)

All I can say is that he's an idiot. Read my notes on googling here and here. Search committees aren't only looking for the best teachers, they're also looking for the best colleagues. And they have every right to do so.

Inspired by a recent post on the East Asian Anthropology listserv, I've put together a short list of M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Japan anthropology.

Early in the month, I read through a huge stack of Yale graduate school applications for the anthropology department. During the first round, my main goal as a reader was to reject applications. Here are some do's and don'ts from that perspective:

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