La Scuola organizza a scadenza regolare incontri pubblici, in proprio o in collaborazione con la Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient e altri enti universitari o istituti di ricerca: le Kyoto Lectures, da più di quindici anni rivolte a un pubblico internazionale di studiosi; Manabu, giornate di studio dei ricercatori, borsisti e dottorandi italiani in Giappone; Intersezioni, uno spazio dedicato ai rapporti tra Italia e Giappone nel passato e nel presente, con incontri, dibattiti, seminari e presentazioni di libri; Eurasian Tracks, che affronta temi relativi agli scambi intellettuali e culturali tra Europa e Asia nei contesti storici più vari.

Oltre a queste iniziative ricorrenti, convegni e workshop fanno ugualmente parte dell’attività scientifica della Scuola con la partecipazione di studiosi italiani, giapponesi e di altre regioni del mondo.

<i>Reframing Japonisme</i>

Kyoto Lectures

Reframing Japonisme

Women’s Engagement with Japanese Art in 19th-Century France

Elizabeth Emery

This lecture will be held on site and via Zoom

March 15th, 2023 18:00

The origin stories of French Japonisme, the nineteenth-century fascination for Japanese art, tend to frame the movement in terms of the activities described in the memoirs of an elite group of men active in the French arts administration. And yet, a return to archival sources uncovers a much broader landscape of interest and exchange related to Japanese works in the years following the 1858 “Traité d’amitié et de commerce.” Travelers such as Emile and Louise Desoye imported and sold Japanese goods, while families such as Louis and Anna Gonse collected and displayed art in their homes. Artists Felix and Marie Bracquemond and Mary Cassatt, among many others, took inspiration from the Japanese prints and ceramics they admired.

Drawing on the findings of Reframing Japonisme: Women and the Asian Art Market in Nineteenth-Century France (1853-1914) (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020), this presentation will provide an overview of some of the many women involved in promoting Japanese art and culture in the nineteenth century while asking questions about how and why their stories have been “cropped” from the frame through which Japonisme tends to be represented. How might twenty-first century scholars enlarge the canvas?

Elizabeth Emery is Professor of French Studies at Montclair State University. She is the author of books, articles, and essay anthologies related to the reception of medieval art and architecture in nineteenth-century France and America, literary house museums, and to the work of women art dealers and collectors of Japanese art. She serves as an editor for the Journal of Japonisme and has been contributing to the “Connoisseurs, Collectors, and Dealers of Asian Art in France from 1700-1939” Program (Institut national de l’histoire de l’art).


This hybrid lecture will be held on site (email required in advance) and via Zoom (meeting ID: 890 4028 6066).

Megaliths Everywhere

Kyoto Lectures

Megaliths Everywhere

Prehistoric Japan as a showcase of human societies’ diversity

Laurent Nespoulous

This lecture will be held on site and via Zoom

February 13th, 2023 18:00

Europe clearly has “a thing” for megaliths. So much that, when Western European archaeologists went abroad during the 19th century, they seemed to make it a priority to detect and report the existence of any dolmen or menhir they thought they had found. When it comes to Japan, a figure like William Gowland comes immediately to mind. However, non-European archaeologists have not necessarily made a specific category or point of interest in raw, more-or-less big, stone structures. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not, depending on the history of their respective archaeological tradition. This is the first reason why Megaliths of the World, as a project and now as a book, needed to exist: to build a sort of temporary summary and to acknowledge the existence of “megaliths”, in places and times well- or lesser-known, and their anthropological and academic backgrounds. If megalithic structures appear to be universal, what makes them megaliths in the wide variety of societies that produce them? Japan, here, is an important field of study and reflection, for Japan’s megaliths come in a vast array of shapes and functions, in societies ranging from the hunter-gatherers of the Jōmon period to the protohistoric tombs and funeral mounds of the Yayoi and Kofun period’s agrarian organizations.

Laurent Nespoulous is Associate Professor of Japanese Archaeology at INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales), Paris, and researcher at IFRAE and at Trajectoires. De la sédentarité à l’État Laboratory (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University). He is the author of numerous contributions on Japanese archaeology, history, and pre/protohistoric Japan. He is the co-editor (with Luc Laporte, Jean-Marc Large, Chris Scarre & Tara Steimer) of Megaliths of the World (Archaeopress, 2022).


This hybrid lecture will be held on site (email required in advance) and via Zoom (meeting ID: 811 0972 7772).

The Politics of Flying Saucers in Yukio Mishima's <i>Beautiful Star</i>

Kyoto Lectures

The Politics of Flying Saucers in Yukio Mishima’s Beautiful Star

Stephen Dodd

This lecture will be held on site and via Zoom

January 24th, 2023 18:00

Given Mishima Yukio’s (1925-1970) fascination with radical right-wing ideas that contributed to his dramatic suicide at the Ichigaya headquarters of the Japan Self-Defence Forces, it is not surprising that his literature is often read through the lens of his political views.  This lecture also pursues such links, by examining the political significance of the flying saucers that appear in his science-fiction novel, Beautiful Star (Utsukushii hoshi, 1962).  However, the lecture aims to broaden our insight into the nature of Mishima’s literary engagement with political consciousness.  The novel was serialized between January and November 1962, following the superpower confrontation of the 1961 Berlin Crisis, and it was completed just as the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was coming to a head.  The contemporaneous emergence of multiple UFO sightings has been linked to anxiety about impending nuclear war, so in that sense Mishima’s novel was obviously political.  However, the work also articulates a broader cultural political perspective, touching on Japanese post-war anxiety about a loss of cultural autonomy and racial ‘purity.’  Moreover, the exquisitely beautiful flying saucers evoke a deeply eroticised aestheticism, which points to an alternative political imagination with the potential to break through the stultifying oppression of consumerist Japan.

Stephen Dodd is Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at SOAS, University of London.  He has written on a wide range of modern Japanese authors.  He is author of Writing Home: Representations of the Native Place in Modern Japanese Literature (Harvard University Asia Center, 2004), and The Youth of Things: Life and Death in the Age of Kajii Motojirō (Hawai’i University Press, 2014.). He has also translated two Mishima Yukio novels in the Penguin Classic series: Life for Sale (Inochi urimasu, 1968) in 2019, and Beautiful Star (Utsukushii hoshi, 1962), in 2022.  He continues to research and translate Mishima’s writings.


This hybrid lecture will be held on site (email required in advance) and via Zoom (meeting ID: 869 6763 0628).

Doxographies of Empire

Kyoto Lectures

Doxographies of Empire

The Imperial Transformation of Japanese Buddhist Thought

Stephan Kigensan Licha

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

December 14th, 2022 18:00

The argument that “Buddhism” as the “Eastern World Religion” is a Western colonial construct is widely accepted. What has received less attention is that also the Japanese encounter with non-Mahāyāna forms of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia during the 19th century occurred in a space structured by Empire, namely by established European domination and budding Japanese ambition. The question of how to order the Buddhist world, in short, was an inherently political one.

Taking as primary example the reception of the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition in Japan, the speaker will show how the unprecedented entwinement of Western scholarly and Eastern scholastic perspectives on South and Southeast Asian Buddhism occasioned a re-interpretation of traditional East Asian Buddhist doxographies into tools for articulating a justification for Japanese imperial expansion. Eventually, these doxographies would come to be applied even to fellow Mahāyānists in China and Korea, and Japanese Buddhists would claim for their tradition to be the sole repository of the authentic Buddhist teachings as a whole. Through the efforts of the likes of Takakusu Junjirō, these doxographies and their attendant imperialist values eventually reached Western Buddhologists and continued to cause havoc in the discipline well into the 20th century.

Stephan Kigensan Licha received his PhD from SOAS in 2012 and is a faculty member in the Department of Japanese Studies at the University of Heidelberg. He specialises in the intellectual history of East Asian Buddhism, with an emphasis on the tantric, Tiantai/Tendai, and Chan/Zen traditions during the pre-modern, and the global history of Buddhist modernism during the modern period. He has published numerous articles on these topics, and his monograph, Esoteric Zen: Zen and the Tantric Teachings in Premodern Japan is forthcoming with Brill.


The meeting link will remain posted on the ISEAS website top page from december 12.

Ogyū Sorai’s Political Theory Reconsidered

Kyoto Lectures

Ogyū Sorai’s Political Theory Reconsidered

What, and Why?

Olivier Ansart

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

November 16th, 2022 18:00

This presentation intends to address the political theory of Ogyū Sorai (1666–1728), the speaker’s first topic of research some twenty-five years ago. By doing so, two fundamental questions come to the fore. First, what does his political theory express that is worth remembering? The question still deserves to be asked since there exist at least two possible but widely different readings of the theory: traditional and religious vs. secular and modern (or even postmodern, for some), both grounded on apparently explicit and unambiguously strong statements. For this reason, Sorai’s political theory presents us with the classic problem of the interpretation of the treatment of contradictions and incoherence. The favored reading that will emerge should prompt the question of “why?”: Why do these factors make such a bold theory conceivable? The argument will draw on Max Weber’s insights into “elective affinities,” as well as on Bourdieu’s notion of habitus, hoping to provide a concrete example for an often obscure concept. The answer to this “why” question is to be found in the role of conventions, pretenses, and self-deceit of the bushi society of the time.

Olivier Ansart obtained his doctorate in Chinese studies (University of Paris, 1981), joined the French foreign service, and then returned to academia fifteen years later, this time in the field of Japanese studies. He was director of the Maison franco-japonaise (Nichifutsu Kaikan) in Tokyo (1992–1995) and a professor at Waseda University before joining the University of Sydney in 2003, from which he retired in July 2022. He is the author of L’empire du rite. La pensée politique d’Ogyū Sorai (1998), La justification des théories politiques (2005), Une modernité indigène (2014), L’étrange voyage de Confucius au Japon (2015), and Paraître et Prétendre (2020).


The meeting link will remain posted on the ISEAS website top page from november 14.