It’s been a busy two weeks! I hope everyone is doing well.
This update will be rather short as I’m rather low on spoons. I’ve been trying to take it easy for the last couple of days, but my body is still recovering!
My activities over the last two weeks can be divided into four general categories: 1) dissertation work; 2) preparations for upcoming events; 3) community outreach; and 4) fun and relaxation.
After two-and-a-half months of nonstop research and writing, I finally completed a revised draft of the first chapter of my dissertation on blind movements in Japan between 1868 and 1940 this past Friday. The draft demanded a lot of attention over the last two weeks, including many hours spent sifting through records from the Central Association for the Welfare of the Blind and local newspapers. Most of my writing time was dedicated to Helen Keller’s visit to Japan in 1938 and its role in solidifying a nascent national movement of persons with blindness that went on to play a prominent role in the (legal) construction of physical disability during the postwar period.
In addition to completing a draft of the first chapter of my dissertation, I also spent a lot of time conducting research for the second chapter. More specifically, I read through around 6,000 newspaper articles focused on veterans’ welfare and blind movements during the 1940s. Those articles, which were published in The Japan Times, Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, and Mainichi Shimbun between 1940 and 1950, yielded a lot of interesting information that I hope to incorporate into my next major project.
Preparations for Upcoming Events
The last two weeks also gave me an opportunity to prepare for several upcoming events. I reached out to some friends in the academic community to organize panels on marginality and difference for the Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference and the Annual Association for Asian Studies Conference. I also took care of lingering medical appointments at the University of Tokyo Hospital and began to make preparations for a two-week trip back to the United States in August. Such preparations took time, but they were ultimately trivial when compared with the beast that was filling out my visa extension request. Acting as a liaison between a local visa consulting service and my affiliated universities in Japan and the United States took way too much energy. Although I managed to acquire and complete all requested materials in a timely fashion, it damn near killed me. And to think that I started this process several months ago!
My community outreach activities over the last two weeks involved meeting with colleagues in various fields and discussing interdisciplinary research opportunities. For instance, I spoke with my friends Aiko and Nobuyuki about a collaborative project concerning the intersection of disability and religion in Japan. Aiko and Nobuyuki are both doctoral students in Buddhist Studies at Toyo University. We initially met a few years back when I was a Fulbright scholar in their department. It was great to see them again and get their feedback!
I also had the opportunity to chat with several incoming students and alumni associated with the University of Pennsylvania over the last two weeks including Patrick Carland, Caitlin Adkins, and Kaitlyn Ugoretz. Our conversations covered a lot of ground, ranging from the gendered implications of contemporary disability policy to classroom pedagogy.
Perhaps the most rewarding element of my community outreach was time spent with an undergraduate student, Jeff, who was visiting Japan as part of a class trip. Jeff is a blind, first-generation college student at Olivet College. He’s currently preparing for his MA in medical anthropology, which he hopes to start this fall. Jeff had lots of questions about the history and politics of disability in Japan, especially as pertaining to blind people. His teachers reached out to me a few weeks ago as a resident expert and asked that I take Jeff on a tour of Tokyo and chat with him about my personal experiences and research. Jeff and I had a great time walking around the Shinjuku, Asakusa, and Harajuku areas. We talked about a broad range of topics, from graduate school applications and practical philosophy to the boundaries of religious practice in Japan. I wish him nothing but the best going forward!
Over the last couple of days, I’ve taken some time off to recharge after two grueling weeks. I went to Joypolis and Round One (local arcades), where I wasted a few hours mindlessly playing claw machines and shooting poorly-rendered aliens. I also went to the movies, where I saw Detective Pikachu (which was great), and sang at Karaoke with some friends. To cap everything off, I drank a bottle of red wine last night. Well deserved, if I can pat myself on the back.
And there you have it, friends. Another two weeks done. At present, I’m waiting for my advisors’ feedback on the first chapter of my dissertation. After receiving it, I will begin to write the second chapter. Other than that, I’m just going to ride the wave and see what happens over the next two weeks!
As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned!