Academic Hoaxes, “Sokal Squared”, and Anime and Manga Studies

It is rare to see any kind of discussion of academic publishing in mainstream media. Probably predictably, if academic journals are mentioned in general-interest newspapers it is probably because of some kind of controversy. And this is currently the case with the “Sokal Squared” hoax and the responses to it.

The hoax itself, as disclosed in Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship, was a project by three authors to write academic papers that were “outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways”, including outright fabrication of data, but that allegedly “blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines [“loosely known as ‘cultural studies’ or ‘identity studies’ (for example, gender studies) or ‘critical theory'”] under our consideration” and submit these papers to leading journals. They submitted 20 papers; 7 were accepted, and 4 actually published. Since it was disclosed earlier in the month, the hoax has been covered extensively – in The Atlantic, the New York Times, Vox, and other publications. As the authors claim, the goal of the project was to study a “peculiar academic culture”, rather than to make and support any specific arguments beyond the general statement that “in certain fields within the humanities…scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established.”

The question I have to ask, of course, is what lessons, if any, does this latest hoax have for anime and manga studies in general, and for anyone interested in academic publications on anime/manga and related topics? Continue reading

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Papers on Anime/Manga in New Voices in Japanese Studies

New VoicesAs I’ve mentioned several times already, one of the inevitable challenges that faces anyone who is seeking to publish their research on anime/manga in a peer-reviewed academic journal is simply selecting a journal to submit to – especially given that there is nothing out there, at least right now, like a “Journal of Anime/Manga Studies”. One simple approach is to focus on the obvious and submit to one of the journals that focus on animation and comics, another is to emphasize the “Japan” angle and submit to a Japanese or Asian Studies journal. Of course, it is also possible to approach the content of the anime/manga in question first and foremost – with this approach, that the work itself happens to be a Japanese cartoon or comic is essentially irrelevant; an example of this kind of approach is Algorithmic tyranny: Psycho-Pass, science fiction and the criminological imagination, to be published in an forthcoming issue of Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal.

Nonetheless, all of these approaches call for a familiarity with the ever-growing universe of English-language academic journals. And one journal that I think will be particularly relevant to anyone who is interested in the developing field of anime/manga studies is New Voices in Japanese Studies (originally, New Voices) – “the only journal dedicated to publishing academic research by outstanding graduate-level scholars with a specific focus on Japan.” Continue reading

Resource Review – Reviews of Peer-Reviewed Journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The end goal of “academic writing” is not just producing a piece of writing that follows a particular format and style. Rather, the end goal – at least once you as the author are no longer writing simply to fulfill a class requirement – is a piece of writing that can then be published in the form of a book, a chapter in an edited essay collection, or, most likely, an article in an academic journal. But this kind of end goal implies an immediate and obvious question – how do you, as an author of a potential journal article, first go about deciding which journals to submit your paper to?

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English-Language Scholarship on Studio Ghibli Films: Looking at the Numbers

One of the paradoxes of scholarship in the humanities is that often, some questions that seem straightforward do not actually have simple answers. In fact, even coming up with an answer to some questions may be difficult, if not impossible. For example, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that a particular book or comic or movie is popular – the sales figures and box office numbers may not be immediately accessible, but the numbers do exist. But it is much harder to claim that a particular author – or a particular film – is “the most studied of all time” or something similar. Claims of this kind, applied to many different authors and many different films, are not uncommon – but the casual statements I have often seen, such as that “among the most studied films of the last few decades are those that descend from the mid-century fiction of Philip Dick and his contemporaries“, tend not to be supported in any way. Comparing authors or works based on the amount of critical attention they have received is equally challenging, though not unheard of – see, for example, Powrie, Phil, Thirty years of doctoral theses on French cinema, Studies in French Cinema, 3(3), 199-203, noting, among other things, “the most popular directors studied”. And, of course, studying the relative importance or prominence of actual scholarship is a well-established practice – and identifying the “most frequently cited works” and the “most frequently cited scholars” in particular fields is at the core of formal citation analysis.

Nonetheless, again, while providing an answer to the question of what is the most frequently studied anime ever – or the most frequently studied anime director ever – is impossible, narrowing the scope of the question can lead to interesting, and potentially insightful, results. The role that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have played in introducing Japanese animation to audiences and critics outside Japan, and in legitimizing academic approaches to anime, is easy to acknowledge. And, as it turns out, now that we are looking at something more narrow in scope than “all anime that has ever been written about critically”, we can, in fact, survey and quantify English-language scholarly writing on Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The end result, then, can be an actual illustration to the general discussion on how non-Japanese scholars have approached Miyazaki and his films.

English-Language Scholarship on Studio Ghibli Films: Examining the Numbers

Purpose: To compile and present specific figures on English-language research on the anime feature films of Studio Ghibli.

Scope: These figures are based on materials included in the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – books, chapters in edited essay collections, and articles in peer-reviewed journals and professional magazines. Articles in newspapers and general-interest magazines/websites, as well as blog posts and personal essays are not included, nor are dissertations/theses/papers written for class, or conference presentations, unless specifically published in Proceedings. The materials were identified using keyword searches in library catalogs, major and subject-specific academic databases, and Google Scholar, direct review of the bibliographies/works cited sections of many previously identified works, and in many cases, direct submissions by authors. All of the entries are listed separately in Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli: A Bibliography.

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Isao Takahata: A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship

As several sources have reported, Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the director of five Ghibli feature films films, passed away earlier today. Takahata’s output as a creator has always been second to Miyazaki’s. Nonetheless, his work, and in particular, Grave of the Fireflies, also received a significant amount of English-language scholarly attention. And, of course, Takahata’s work has been addressed extensively throughout the more general academic writing on the work of Hayao Miyazaki on on Studio Ghibli.

Isao Takahata (1935-2018): A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship

Books

Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc.
Studio Ghibli: The films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books (1st ed.: 2009; Revised & Updated Ed.: 2015)

Book Chapters and Journal Articles

“Within Japanese popular culture, manga and anime have played a significant role in mediating responses to the outcome of the Pacific War. Miyazaki Hayao’s (possibly) final feature-length film, The Wind Rises, has been an important addition to the preceding body of popular media ‘texts’ that raise such themes. This article aims to address the question of how far cinematic animation can reasonably be obliged to follow the kinds of historiographical concerns that inevitably arise when engaging with Japan’s militarist past. To answer this question, considerable space is devoted to examining the historical context of what others have done in the post-war period and integrate that commentary into an analysis of how the works of Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao fit amongst a succession of creative works that have been co-opted in the reshaping of historical perceptions of the Japanese at war amongst the Japanese themselves. This will also require some incidental discussion of methodological issues that arise when dealing with such cases as vehicles for understanding transformations in historical consciousness. Ultimately it is argued that Miyazaki does indeed make an important contribution to the commentary on the Japanese war experience, although it must, perhaps unavoidably, be on highly personal terms so far as The Wind Rises is concerned.”

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Resource Review – Database for Animation Studies

Database for Animation Studies - 01A simple and straight-forward question to ask when conducting any kind of academic research is – where do I start looking for materials on my topic? And, a key concept to understand when thinking about the research process is that there is no such thing as single resource that would be an equally effective starting point for any kind of research.  Subject encyclopedias and specialized subject bibliographies, introductory essay collections (these often carry the specific term “Companion” or “Handbook” in the title – as with the examples of the Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel and the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society) and of course, various general and subject-specific research databases , to say nothing of Google Scholar, may all be useful.

In the past, I have profiled/evaluated one such resource – the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research. And recently, I became aware of another one that – at least initially, looks like it would be perfect for anyone who is looking to begin researching topics related to anime/Japanese animation.

Database for Animation Studies

What does this Database cover? How is it organized? And, most importantly, is it actually useful?

(Note: All of my comments apply to the English version of the Database only)

Profile:

“Launched in 2013, Database for Animation Studies is a part of the project called Mapping Project for Animation Studies held by Japanese Association of Animation Studies. It collects the information of the books and the articles on Animation Studies and share it. By doing it, this website aims to show the map of the landscape of Animation Studies.” Continue reading

The Animation Journal – 25 Years of Contribution to Animation Studies

The establishment of one or more focused academic journals is commonly considered to be one of the major features of academic fields – rather than merely “areas of interest”. In this way, the Journal of Asian Studies “has played a defining role in the field of Asian studies for nearly 70 years”, and Japan Forum, Japanese Studies, and the Journal of Japanese Studies have done for that field.

By the time the Animation Journal was founded in 1991, an extensive body of academic writing on animation had existed already. But that journal’s formal launch in the fall of 1992 can be seen as a major point in the development of animation studies as a field – that is now supported by several other journals, a Society for Animation Studies, an Animation subject area at the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association’s annual conference, and classes on animation commonly offered by film studies departments/programs. Since that first Fall 1992 issue, it has published over 150 articles on animation – including several on Japanese animation specifically.

But, as per an announcement on the AnimationJournal.com website, the 2017 “Special Issue on Italian Animation” is the journal’s final one – “It will be possible to purchase back issues, but no additional essays will be accepted for publication.” Continue reading

Highlighting New Publications – Undergraduate Scholarship on Anime/Manga

“Any [academic] discipline is first and foremost about the people who practice it” – write Gerardo L. Munck and Richard Snyder in Who publishes in comparative politics?: Studying the world from the United States. There are plenty of examples of studies in different areas/disciplines/fields that examine the characteristics of the authors who are actually working in them – some other typical recent examples are International differences in nursing research, 2005-2009, Quantity and authorship of GIS articles in library and information science literature, 1990-2005, and Taking stock of management education: A comparison of three management journals. And, while these kinds of studies often find that the authors of the articles that they examine differ quite widely in terms of their gender, academic rank, university affiliation, and other similar factors, they also generally demonstrate that the authors who publish in a particular field are overwhelmingly affiliated with academic programs in that field. This makes sense – a history professor or graduate student would publish in a history journal; likewise, the most likely author of an article in the Journal of Japanese Studies or a similar publication would be affiliated with an Asian, East Asian, or Japanese Studies program. But, there simply are no academic departments in the U.S. that specifically focus on anime/manga, and scholars who do publish work on Japanese animation or Japanese comics can be based in many different academic departments. A related issue, of course, is whether a person who wants to publish their academic writing has to even be an academic (i.e., employed as a faculty member) to begin with! Here too, the studies find many differences by discipline: 11% of the authors studied in Who publishes in comparative politics are graduate students, as are approximately 9% of those studied in An examination of author characteristics in national and regional criminology journals, 2009-2010, and 5% in Who publishes in top-tier library science journals?

But, even here, a valid question is whether someone who is interested in anime/manga academically and wants to share their work in a formal setting such as a peer-reviewed journal – but is just an undergraduate – is able to do so. Continue reading

Guest Post – The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga

From the editor: One of the major activities that Anime and Manga Studies Projects undertakes is promoting the emerging field of anime and manga studies by highlighting new academic writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics. The ongoing Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies is one aspect of this activity, and pieces I post highlighting new books, book chapters, and journal articles are another. Throughout my work, though, I have always wanted to ask the question of how do authors of new scholarship on anime/manga actually view their own research. How did it come about? What are its connections to other scholarship? Where do the authors draw their inspirations from? What do they hope to accomplish?

And, I am now excited to present a new and unique type of article on anime/manga studies – an emerging anime/manga scholar reflecting on their work.

The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga: A Visual Theoretical Depiction of Possibilities

Kathy Nguyen is the author of Wired:: Ghosts in the s[hell] (Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies) and Body upload 2.0: Downloadable cosmetic [re]birth (Ekphrasis: Images, Cinema, Theory, Media). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University.

Living in an increasingly rapid digital era, where scrolling, tapping, being wired and plugged in may be the few solitary sources for connectivity – that is, if connectivity will eventually become technologized – problematizes several issues once the world becomes updated. I am especially interested in studying about the philosophies of technology; I continuously go back to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. Chun writes: “New [technology] live and die by the update: the end of the update, the end of the object” (2). These updates are interesting because if human bodies, animals, objects, and such are constantly being updated and/or upgraded, what does death look like in the digital age, especially when there are apparatuses such as the E-Tomb, where information of the deceased continues to live on? Perhaps eternally – or at least, if the network maintains its connectivity signals. Continue reading

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2017 Ed.

end-of-cool-japanThe work that I do to promote anime and manga studies as an academic field and facilitate its growth and development includes several different projects – this site, the Anime and Manga Research Circle Mailing List, convention panels, of course, the Academic Program at Anime Expo. But, the one project that I focus on the most is a comprehensive bibliography of English-language academic publications on anime/manga – the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies. Currently, it exists in the form of a set of lists covering such publications going back to 1977 – the year the first article on Japanese comics that I am aware of appeared in an English-language academic journal. My eventual goal is to use these lists to develop a searchable database that would be similar, at least conceptually, to the Bibliography of Asian Studies and the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research – even if significantly more narrow in its scope. But for now, as every new year starts, I begin the process of compiling that year’s annual list.

The tools and techniques that I use remain fairly consistent over the years. On a regular basis, I search general academic databases – Academic One File (Gale), Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), and the ProQuest Research Library, and more specialized ones (some of these include: Bibliography of Asian Studies – already mentioned above, FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals, Film & Television Literature Index, MLA International Bibliography, Performing Arts Periodicals Database, Screen Studies Collection), as well as Google Scholar/Microsoft Academic. I also review the tables of contents of new issues of journals that are likely to publish academic papers on anime/manga, and, not infrequently, have authors alert me to new work that they have published. And, just a few weeks into 2017, I am already able to present this year’s edition of the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – certainly a work in progress, but a start!

English-language books, book chapters, academic journal articles on anime/manga – 2017

[As I mentioned, the entries in this list are limited to academic publications – books, book chapters and journal articles, on anime/manga and related topics. I specifically do not include blog posts or newspaper/magazine pieces. And of course, the decision whether or not a particular publication qualifies for inclusion is subjective. Finally, the date that “counts” for inclusion is the copyright date that actually appears in a book or the cover date of a particular journal issue, not the actual date when the book or issue became available.

This list will be permanently archived in the Bibliographies section of this site, and I will continue to add new items to it as become aware of them.]

Essay Collections

Freedman, Alisa, & Slade, Toby (Eds.), Introducing Japanese popular culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

McLelland, Mark (Ed.). The end of Cool Japan: Ethical, legal, and cultural challenges to Japanese popular culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Book Chapters

Buljan, Katharine. Spirituality-struck: Anime and religiou-spiritual devotional practices.
In Carole M. Cusack & Pavol Kosnac, Fiction, invention and hyper-reality: From popular culture to religion (pp. 101-118). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

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