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13 March 2023 - 13 March 2023

10:00AM - 5:30PM

The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY

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This symposium aims to collectively explore forms of embodied practice in the post-WWII era, with a focus on Japan in the global context.

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Translating Embodiedness

The concept of embodiedness—in which bodily and mental experiences shape one another in relation to their surroundings—plays a pivotal role in discourses of the body. World wars and their aftermaths have pushed artists, activists, critics, and writers to reconsider their attention to the body politic and focus instead on an individual subject’s lived experience while highlighting the inadequacy and limits of sharing bodily experiences verbally with other individuals. However, their manner of practice and international networks in forging the circulation, migration, and translation of the concept of embodiedness and phenomenological thought have ample room for intellectual development. The symposium thus moves beyond ideas of embodiedness as dwelling within one’s own body or nation to look instead at the idea of embodiedness through flow or mobility across bodily, political, and media borders. This interdisciplinary collaborative event aims to develop a new methodology for translating embodied practices across media for various sensory registers—that is, translating bodily experiences into words, images, and performances.

This event builds on previous initiatives at Durham University, including the activities of the Performance and Performativity Research Group (2017–), the “Modern Japan in the Comparative Imagination” conference (2019), and an ongoing collaboration with dance practitioners, “Touch: Migrating Embodiedness” (2021–). As a further development of the initial online symposium with a small number of scholars from various fields (literature, visual culture, media studies, and dance/performance) in June 2022, this symposium aims to collectively develop and revise ideas and work toward publishing an edited volume. Ultimately, the aim of the project is to create a platform for considering self-reflexive approaches—whether artistic, creative, or scholarly—to embodiedness in everyday life.

This symposium is generously supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Durham University’s Research and Innovation Services (Research Impact Fund) and School of Modern Languages and Cultures (Performance and Performativity Research Group).                                                                                                                                                                         Great Sasakawa Foundation logo




Programme 13 March 2023 (10.00 - 17.30)

Time Description

        Fusako Innami (Durham University)

10.10 – 11.40

Literature as Worlding: Reorientation in Natsume Sōseki and Hotta Yoshie
        Michael Bourdaghs (University of Chicago)


Pedagogies in Plentitude: Anticolonial and Ecological Embodiments in the work of Nakahira Takuma and Ishimure Michiko
        Franz Prichard (Princeton University)



11.40 – 12.00  Break

12.00 – 13.30

An “Organism of Colours”: Kawauchi Rinko and the Ecologies of Colour Photography
        William Schaefer (Durham University)


Selective Embodiment in the Retreat to the Metaverse
        Paul Roquet (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)



13.30 – 14.30  Lunch

14.30 – 16.30

Imitating Victor’s Dog
        Rosa van Hensbergen (Yale University)


Language Passing through the Body: Movement, Writing, and Improvisation
        Fusako Innami (Durham University)


Art, Embodied Perception, and Deintellectualization
        Pedro Erber (Waseda University)



16.30 – 16.40 

Short break

16.40 – 17.30 

Final discussion 


Michael Bourdaghs

Bio: Michael Bourdaghs is the Robert S. Ingersoll Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of Chicago and the author, most recently, of A Fictional Commons: Natsume Sōseki and the Properties of Modern Literature (2021). His previous books include Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop (2012, Japanese translation 2012), and The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Tōson and Japanese Nationalism (2003). A specialist in modern Japanese literature and popular culture, he is also an active translator, including Karatani Kōjin's The Structure of World History: From Modes of Exchange to Modes of Production (2014). A 2019 Guggenheim Fellow, Bourdaghs has previously taught at UCLA and International Christian University (Tokyo). He is currently writing a book on the Cold War cultures of Japan.

Franz Prichard

Bio: Franz Prichard teaches in the Department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. His work explores the literature, visual media, and critical thought of contemporary Japan. His first book Residual Futures: The Urban Ecologies of Literary and Visual Media of 1960s and 1970s Japan (2019) examines the rapid transformation of the urban and media ecologies of Japanese literary and visual media of the 1960s and 70s. 

William Schaefer

Bio: William Schaefer is Associate Professor in Chinese Studies and Visual Culture at Durham University. His current book project, Photographic Ecologies, argues that for contemporary photographers in China, Japan, and the West, and photographers at the medium’s inception during the nineteenth century, the very materiality and forms of photographic images and are emergent from and interact with larger ecosystems. Photography is thus a crucial site for staging and rethinking fundamental questions of the relations between culture and nature provoked in the present moment of climate and ecological crisis and mass displacement. Portions of the book have been published in October, ASAP/Journal, and Representations. Schaefer’s first book, Shadow Modernism: Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925-1937 (Duke University Press, 2017), explored the transformation of Chinese visual and literary culture by photography, and the centrality of that transformation to modernism in China.

Paul Roquet

Bio: Paul Roquet studies the use of media as technologies of everyday perceptual, emotional, and spatial control. He is associate professor of media studies and Japan studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Comparative Media Studies | Writing section), and the author of Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self (Minnesota, 2016) and The Immersive Enclosure: Virtual Reality in Japan (Columbia, 2022). See for additional details and publications.

Rosa van Hensbergen

Bio: Rosa van Hensbergen is a researcher, writer, and performance maker. She is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale, where she teaches and researches modern and contemporary Japanese and American literature and performance. Her first book on the choreographic method and creations of Hijikata Tatsumi is under contract with OUP Dance Theory Series. She has publications out or forthcoming on butoh in Germany, the work of Waguri Yukio, Samuel Beckett and contemporary dance, Beckett’s stage directions and Billie Whitelaw’s annotated scripts, as well as on the visual and verbal creations of Scottish poet W.S. Graham. Alongside her academic work, she writes poetry, and works with singers and dancers to create performance works.

Fusako Innami

Bio: Fusako Innami is an associate professor in Japanese and Performance Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University as well as the author of Touching the Unreachable: Writing, Skinship, Modern Japan (Michigan, 2021). With her prime interest in how the body and language perform, she has published works on the body and its senses, intimacy, and sleep, and she has long contributed to articles on the performing arts. Her current project, Gestural Writing, engages with embodied performance practices as transcultural interactions and collaborations that have advanced our understanding of phenomenal bodies. Concurrently, she is running a series of dance workshops, “Touch: Migrating Embodiedness,” to translate literary touch back to moving bodies.

Pedro Erber

Bio: Pedro Erber is Professor of Comparative Literature at the School of International Liberal Arts, Waseda University. He is a Senior Research Associate at Cornell University and Editor of ARTMargins. He holds a PhD in Japanese Literature from Cornell University, an M.A. in Philosophy from PUC-Rio de Janeiro, and a B.A. in Philosophy from U.F.R.J. His publications in English include Breaching the Frame: The Rise of Contemporary Art in Brazil and Japan (University of California Press, 2015) and numerous articles on art and aesthetics, literature, philosophy, and political thought.

Please click here for speaker abstracts:  Speaker abstracts