Job Apps and Journals

Hello everyone!

It’s been another two months, and a lot has happened. Having said that, I’m low on spoons, so I’m going to try and keep this entry brief.

Job Market

I spent the vast majority of my time over the last two months working on job apps. I submitted applications for four tenure-track positions and one post-doctoral fellowship this year. I’ll refrain from saying anything else about the programs to which I’ve applied for the time being due to concerns about anonymity, but I’ll let you all know if/when I have updates about my candidacy.

Research Updates

Over the last two months, I also completed the third chapter of my dissertation and the preliminary research for my fourth and final chapter. Additionally, I gave talks at venues including, but not limited to: 1) The Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference at Dickinson College; 2) The Modern Japanese History Workshop Series at the University of Tokyo; 3) The US-Japan Symposium (‘Toward an Inclusive College Campus’)  at the Nippon Foundation; 4) The University of Michigan; and 5) Toyo University. Currently, I’m preparing another series of talks for the Anthropology of Japan in Japan Conference (AJJ) at Meiji Gakuin University, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and the Suzugamo Caregiving Company.

Perhaps more important than my talks is the fact that I heard back about my first article submitted to a peer-reviewed journal a few days ago. I’m pleased to say that I was offered a revise and resubmit by one of the top journals in my field, and I may be published before too long! I’m excited about this opportunity and I hope it pans out.

Networking and Service

What little time I had away from my job applications and research activities over the last two months was spent with my friends and family. I hung out with current and former advisors like Patrick Galbraith and Jolyon Thomas as well as long-time mentors like Nagase Osamu. I also spoke with disability activists and academics like Aya Higa and Hoshika Ryoji. Perhaps the most memorable of my conversations were those with peers from my coursework days: Kaitlyn Ugoretz, Daria Melnikova, Jooyeon Hahm, and so many others. I really cherish the community that I’ve built over the last four years, and I wake up each day looking forward to working with everyone. Here’s hoping our talks continue for years to come.

Looking Forward

My plan for the next two months is to finish the final chapter of my dissertation. By the new year, I want to be in a position where I just have to write my intro and conclusion and make some edits to the interstitial tissues of the document just in case I get a job offer. If I fail on the market this year, I’m content to spend another year working on the four-chapter manuscript and expanding it into a six-chapter monstrosity. We’ll see what happens!

Other than that, I look forward to continuing my consulting work for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games here in Tokyo. There’s so much left to do, and I cant wait!

Until next time.

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“US-Japan Symposium: Toward an Inclusive College Campus”

The Ties That Bind

Hello everyone!

It’s been way too long since I’ve put out a blog post. Apologies for the delay.

The last two months have been extremely hectic, as I’ve spent most of my time preparing to hit the job market this fall! Toward that end, I’ve produced several drafts of cover letters, research and teaching statements, as well as  other supplemental documents. I’ve also reorganized my website to be a bit more streamlined and reflect the kinds of information that potential employers may look for. Hopefully you all can still access it without too much difficulty (please let me know if you have any issues/suggestions!)

Thankfully, working on my job materials hasn’t kept me from diving into other things. I’ve met with many friends and colleagues to discuss new avenues for academic and activist interventions regarding accessibility. In fact, I’ve had more than twenty meetings to discuss collaborative projects in fields like architecture, engineering, performance, art, literature, policy, and law. To go into each of those meetings in detail would take a lot of space and time, and I don’t want to subject my more casual readers to it. Rather, I’m going to spend the majority of this blog post focusing on the projects and presentations that I successfully completed over the last eight weeks.

In terms of projects (and, more specifically, publications), I’ve written several articles as of late. Perhaps the most important among them is a condensed version of the first two chapters of my dissertation, which I’ve submitted to a top journal in my field for review. I’ve been instructed not to share information about that article in any public forum, but I’d be happy to send it to anyone interested if you contact me privately (you can do so via e-mail or the contact form above). In addition my academic article, I’ve also produced a number of public facing pieces on topics like creating an accessible religious community and the consequences of conflating violence and mental illness. Those articles have been published on websites like Accessible Japan and in newspapers like the Japan Times. Additionally, I’ve written a disability studies investigation of sumo wrestling (inspired by a recent trip to the Sumo capital of Japan, Ryugoku), which will be available online soon.

As always, I’ve tried to share my work with specialists operating in numerous fields and the general public. Talks at the Japan Foundation, Kurofune Holdings Architecture Firm, the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, Susugamo Caregiving, and many universities in Tokyo have helped me accomplish that goal. Casual interactions with educators and technicians at large social welfare events like LIVES2019 have also been a great boon. I’m really excited about future speaking engagements sponsored by private corporations and the US Embassy as well as lectures that I’m due to give in the department of Life Design at Toyo University and the University of Tokyo’s Modern Japanese History Workshop.

While I truly enjoyed my research and service over the last two months, perhaps the most rewarding use of my time at a personal level was my trip back to the United States. For two weeks at the end of August I went back home to visit friends and family. I saw colleagues from Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania as well as the larger Japanese Studies community in Philadelphia. I also attended a monumental event in my dad’s wedding and had the honor of delivering a speech as his best man. It was truly a wonderful occasion and I can’t express how happy I am for him and my new stepmother (although I’m certain she’ll kill me for describing her as such in this post).

As I now prepare to venture forth into the final stages of dissertation writing and the muck of the job market, I can say that I’m truly happy. Everything seems to be looking up for the time being – let’s hope it stays that way.

Be well, everyone, and I look forward to talking with you soon.

Mark

 

Global Gambits and Domestic Developments

Hello everyone!

It’s been a month since my last blog post and a lot has happened to say the least. Rather than offering a day-by-day breakdown of events here, I thought that I’d provide a brief summary. In the past, I’ve organized my blog around certain themes or ideas. Today, I’ll do so around the three essential components of my academic job application: research, teaching, and service. I’ve chosen this model because the academic job market looms large in my mind at the moment. I plan to apply for jobs for the first time in September!

Research

Over the last month, I’ve written four items worthy of note. The first is a completed version of the second chapter of my dissertation. The second is a revised version of my teaching statement. The third and fourth are two articles that I intend to submit to peer reviewed academic journals. In reading through the submission guidelines for those journals, I’ve come to learn that I have to refrain from describing the content of my articles to allow for blind review. Hopefully you’ll see my name in print before too long!

The last month also gave me several chances to present my research.

A few weeks ago, I gave a guest lecture for Karen Nakamura at Waseda University about disability and technology in contemporary Japan. I took her students on a tour of the surrounding area, during which I pointed out accessibility features (or lack thereof) and discussed how our actions can affect the built environment. The students seem to have taken an interest in my interactive lesson. According to Karen, many have used it as inspiration for their final projects, which aim to elucidate various aspects of access in Tokyo.

More recently, I lead a pedagogy workshop at Sophia University about teaching diversity in Japanese universities alongside four co-panelists, who discussed issues of race, class, and gender in a way that complemented my work on disability. Most of my contributions focused on the troubling implications of teaching without consulting persons with disabilities. I argued that a lack of disabled voices in the classroom (borne out of social, political, economic, and cultural barriers, among others) has led us to teach in a way that produces practical changes in the outside world that often create hardships for persons with disabilities. I suggested that we must develop an awareness of the ways in which our teaching affects individuals within and outside of the classroom and deliberately redesign our pedagogical practices to dismantle barriers to education, employment, and social participation for persons with disabilities. 

Of course, my participation in research events was not limited to the role of facilitator. I also attended many events led by faculty operating in disciplines adjacent to my own. For instance, I went to see lectures by Amanda Seaman and Jennifer McGuire on cancer narratives and the cultural effects of several kinds of deaf education.

Teaching

My teaching this month often assumed the form of academic advising. I spoke with four students who wish to enter the academy and gave them feedback on their application materials. While I won’t reveal their names here due to concerns regarding anonymity, I’ll wish them the best. In addition to my student advising, I also spoke with some of my peers and mentors like Chris Atwood, Edward Drott, Jolyon Thomas, Gregory Hannah, and Christa Bialka about career prospects and the cultivation of a professional persona. Their advice has been invaluable in developing my job application materials, and I hope that I’ve reciprocated their kindness by suggesting practical developments within the academy that may benefit their students. For instance, the creation of an Accessibility Minor (rather than a Disability Studies minor) at Villanova University that would unite students of engineering, business, law, ethics, gender and global interdisciplinary studies via collaborative research projects that tackle barriers to access for everyone.

Service

Perhaps the most exciting aspects of my work over the last month (or at least the most noticeable to those outside academia) fell into the realm of service. Among my many encounters were meetings with domestic entrepreneurs and politicians working in the accessibility sphere. For instance, I was consulted by Kurofune Design Holdings Inc., an architecture firm that hopes to build an international residence that can accommodate persons with disabilities from different cultures. I also met with Keimi Harada (former mayor of Tokyo’s Minato Ward) and shared with him my views on access. Such meetings went a long way to furthering the domestic realization of my research.  But my service activities over the last month were not limited to domestic developments.

Two weeks ago, I met with disability activists Masako Okuhira and Ming Canaday at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to discuss the creation of accessible environments in Japan, China, and the United States. I was also contacted by the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Disability and Accessibility, who praised my work and suggested that I become involved in a number of international initiatives, including the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES). The Special Envoy asked me to share the findings of my research with her and her peers at the UN. I can’t say how humbling it is to be consulted by leaders on accessibility from across the globe. I can only hope to live up to their expectations going forward!

Wrapping Up

And that’s about it for this month, my friends. I’m going back underground for a while as I have to prepare my job application materials, but you’ll hear from me before too long. As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment or question if you like!

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Colleagues and Conferences

Hello all!

Apologies for falling out of my normal writing rhythm. I fell out of my wheelchair two weeks ago while my caregiver was transferring me to the shower and had to go to the hospital. I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t badly injured, and I’ve more or less made a full recovery. I lost a few days in the process, but hey, what can you do!

Despite my medical setback, I’ve had a busy couple of weeks!

Over the last fourteen days, I’ve written/edited approximately 10,000 words of the second chapter of my dissertation (around 85%). That chapter traces how organizations for the blind influenced the creation of the Law for the Welfare of Physically Handicapped Persons in 1949 by forming strategic alliances with veterans associations, government institutions, and occupational forces.

In addition to my dissertation work, I also wrote a number of access audits for Accessible Japan, including entries for the National Noh Theater and the Kabukiza Theater. While researching those entries, I attended information sessions and special backstage tours for each theater and even had a chance to meet some of the actors and trainers!

Furthermore, I  developed several event abstracts (LIFE2019, MAR/AAS, AAS) and wrote a number of essays that will eventually be published as conference proceedings over the last two weeks. But my time wasn’t spent entirely on writing and research.

The last two weeks also afforded me opportunities to meet with friends and colleagues in various venues. First, I dropped by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) to meet with my friend Fukuchi-san and discuss the possibility of setting up an accessible tourism venture. We talked about my thoughts regarding access and technology and discussed how I could get involved in their accessibility initiatives aimed at developing countries. I equally enjoyed my conversation with Amanda Seaman of UMass Amherst, who sat with me for a cup of coffee and told me about her work on cancer narratives. I had a great time in Yokohama with my girlfriend and Shimokitazawa with my caregiver. And it was nice catching up with old friends after a lecture from Mark Ramseyer at the University of Tokyo.

Perhaps the biggest news that I have to share is that my visa extension was approved through the end of August 2020. Also, my TED talk, “Paralympics as Possibility: The Past, Present, and Future of Accessibility” is now available online.

Noh Theater with Japan Foundation
Noh Theater with Japan Foundation

Papers and Publicity

Hello all!

This past week has been something of a whirlwind. My activities can be summarized in a few short sentences, so I’m not going to belabor the point.

Public-Facing Articles

Over the past week, I put out/was featured in three public-facing articles. The first,  “To Make a More Accessible City, Turn to the Sidewalk” (Smart Cities Dive) explores how crowdsourcing technologies can help us build better cities. The second, “An Olympics Crowdsourcing Project May Be The Answer to Making Japan A More Accessible Country” (The Japan Times) investigates the implications of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo for persons with disabilities around the globe. And the third, “A Pilgrim’s Tale: Religion, Ritual, and Physical Disability in Japan” (Accessible Japan) looks at the relationship between religion, disability, pilgrimage, and community formation.

Reading and Research

Much of my time was spent researching the history of veterans and blind movements in Japan between 1940 and 1950. I read through hundreds of occupation records, as well as magazines and other materials from the National Diet Library. I also investigated resources from the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare as well as secondary scholarship put out by the Japan Lighthouse Association and the Helen Keller Society.

Entertainment

In addition to research and writing, I spent a fair bit of time relaxing. I’m still waiting on my dissertation advisor’s feedback on my first chapter (although initial comments seem positive), so I had time to kill.  I took the opportunity to Skype with friends and go out to Karaoke. I also visited Teamlab Borderless, a digital art installation that immerses participants in the works through lights and lasers. It was interesting seeing how many ‘borders’ I could find in the free-flowing world as a person with multiple disabilities.

Concluding Remarks

This coming week will be my last week of research before I jump back into writing and begin on my second chapter. Wish me luck!

 

Relaxation with my friend Ryo
Relaxation with my friend Ryo