Dissertation Defense (2 Years Early)

Hello all!

This past week has been filled to the brim with prep work for the coming two. I’m supposed to deliver at least three major presentations before the week of the 25th, so we’ll see how that goes!

On Tuesday, I made my way through John Dower’s Embracing Defeat (for the fifth time) to find citations and add some context to the second chapter of my dissertation. I also spoke with my friend Josh Grisdale of Accessible Japan about some exciting opportunities for future collaboration and met up with Dr. Michael Gillan Peckitt of Osaka University. Dr. Peckitt has written extensively about his experiences living in Japan as an foreigner with cerebral palsy. I greatly enjoyed our conversation, which touched on numerous aspects of disability history, policy, and activism, as well as educational and employment opportunities. I suspect that my conversation with Dr. Peckitt was only the beginning of a much larger dialogue, and I look forward to its continuation over the coming months.

On Wednesday, I spent much of my day preparing my script and powerpoint for my upcoming TED talk on Sunday, March 17th. After ten or so trial runs, I felt relatively comfortable with my materials and did not need to look at them to get my point across. To put my training to the test, I attended a group rehearsal session on Wednesday night, where I presented alongside Haruko Akatsu (the Dean of Medical Education at IUHW) and Keimi Harada (former mayor of Minato City in Tokyo, Japan). I learned a great deal from the feedback I received after my presentation, and have since incorporated many of my audience’s suggestions into my presentation. One of the most important lessons I learned was about my framing of Japan as a space of (in)accessibility. As a scholar of Japan, I’ve been trained to treat the island nation in relative isolation from the rest of the world, focusing on particular idiosyncratic behaviors and patters: after all, my analysis has to start somewhere. However, this framing of Japan as a space of problems (and solutions) unintentionally distracted my audience from my larger points about the global implications of access making. To correct for such distractions, I’ve since added in a lot of explicit comparisons and theorization of access at local, national, and international levels of analysis. I have another trial run scheduled for Wednesday, so fingers crossed!

On Thursday, my advisors at the University of Tokyo (Dr. Satoshi Fukushima and Dr. Shin’Ichiro Kumagaya) asked if I would be willing to deliver a talk at their joint research meeting this coming Wednesday, March 13. While short notice, I was quick to agree as I’ve yet to have a chance to share my dissertation research with them and their students in a structured setting. I was surprised to learn, however, that my talk was expected to be around two hours in length: one hour of lecture and one hour of Q/A. I wasn’t going to let the length of my talk bother me, however, and I immediately set out to put together materials. By Friday night, I had converted my dissertation prospectus (10 pages) into an easy-to-read outline (5 pages in Japanese) and put together an eighty slide PowerPoint. My talk will be conducted in Japanese, and is in many senses a trial run for my eventual dissertation defense. While I’m still more than two years away from my defense date, I hope to use my talk as a chance to sharpen my presentation skills in Japanese and gain feedback about sources/archives that I’ve yet to tap into (or haven’t tapped into enough).

On Friday, I supplemented my preparation for next week’s talk with work on another presentation that I will deliver on Sunday, March 24th. On that day, I’ll be Skyping in to the Association for Asian Studies at around 5:00 AM to deliver a lecture on “Violent Accessibility” and solidarity trends in Japan’s disabled communities. My lecture is part of a larger panel on Disability in Japan that I put together, which will also feature talks and commentary by Karen Nakamura, Carolyn Stevens, Yoshiko Okuyama, and Frank Mondelli. I really can’t wait!

After finishing up my preparation for both presentations (and having already completed my preparation for my TED talk), I decided that I would go out and get a cup of coffee at the mall. It was already late at night, and before I knew it the mall literally closed around me, shutters and all. While the coffee shop I was in kept its back door open, that door had stairs and I was unable to leave. Panicking, I ran to tell the store manager, and he ran outside to get a security officer to re-open the shutters and let me out. Unfortunately, I was swept away by the moment and forgot my wallet in the coffee shop! I realized around five minutes later and quickly turned around, hoping to catch the security guard before he ran back inside. By this point, it was close to 11:30 PM and it was raining outside. I was physically and mentally exhausted, but I wasn’t going anywhere without my wallet. Thankfully, I found someone to go get the security guard, and was relieved to discover that they’d already recovered my wallet and kept it in the lost and found. Thank god that all of my credit cards and cash remained untouched. Ah, the safety of Japan!

Yesterday and today, I spent a great deal of time digging around the Disability Information Resources System (DINF) maintained by the Japan Society for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (JSRPD). There are decades of articles and untapped materials there for me to look at, so I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. Still, it’s been exciting work, and I’ve already found a lot of exciting things. For instance, I stumbled on photos of Helen Keller from her 1947 visit to Japan! To build on those findings and close out my week, I had dinner with Dr. Yoshiko Okuyama of the University of Hawaii this evening. Dr. Okuyama and I spoke about disability and tojisha manga as well as my own research on the history and politics of accessibility. Our conversation will certainly continue, as we’ll be presenting together on the 24th!

Believe it or not, this has been my ‘rest week.’ Starting on Tuesday, I have major plans each day that blow this weeks’ activities out of the water. At least I feel productive!

More soon, friends. For now, take care!

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 3.22.01 AM
Protestors from the “Asahi Lawsuit,” one of the first ‘right to life’ cases brought before the Japanese Supreme Court in the late 1950s. The case centered around conditions in national sanatoria. I discovered this picture in the DINF archives.



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