The University of Colorado, Boulder’s Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations held the “Transnationalism and its Discontents: Exploring Critical Approaches to Border-space” conference from March 13th to 15th. The conference was organized with the generous support of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Center for Asian Studies, the Association for Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council, the Center for the Humanities and the Arts, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and the Japan Foundation. The conference organizing committee was pleased to welcome acclaimed author of Japanese and German, Tawada Yōko, as the keynote speaker.
Tawada's prolific career stretches decades and continents. She has published twenty-five volumes in Japanese and twenty-two volumes in German. Throughout her work, Tawada has challenged physical, artistic, and social borders in novel and enlightening ways. She is the winner of multiple awards for literature, including the Akutagawa, Murasaki Shikibu, and Yomiuri prizes in Japan, as well as the Adelbert-von-Chamisso Prize and the Goethe Medal in Germany. She has been writer-in-residence at Stanford University, Cornell University, and NYU. The conference also featured a documentary film screening, a conversation between Tawada Yōko and Levy Hideo, and presentations by nineteen scholars from around the world.
The conference opened on Friday with a screening of the international documentary “A Home Within Foreign Borders,” followed by a Q&A with the producer of the film, Suga Keijirō, and the focus of the documentary, Levy Hideo. Saturday featured three paper panels on topics ranging from colonialism to sound poetry to hip-hop in Japan. Tawada and Levy also spoke on the topic of transnational writing and the implications of language, modernization, and politics on contemporary transnationalism and art. Saturday’s events concluded with Tawada Yōko reading selections of her prose and poetry in both Japanese and German. She read to a packed-house that often burst into laughter at the playful joyousness of her works. Sunday featured panels on translation, comparative studies, and the direction of transnational studies moving forward. The conference was a wonderful success and the organizing committee hopes that it will engender a new, critical approach to transnational studies not only in the fields of Japanese and German literature, but also in cultural and media studies, translation, and post-colonialism.