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March 24 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Making Japanese Tea: Cultural Nationalism in Practice

Tuesday, March 24, 5 PM, FedEx GEC 1009, UNC

The tea ceremony is one of the most evocative symbols of Japan, conjuring up images of kimono-clad women whisking up the beverage by means of an esoteric ritual.  But why is this the case when just two hundred years ago elite men were the main carriers of the practice?  More generally, how does a cultural practice of a few come to represent a nation as a whole?  In this talk, Kristin Surak will peer behind the rustic walls of a tea room to dissect the interplay of elegance and austerity that has been carried by both elite warriors and common housewives, and is colored by an ideology of simplicity now managed and sold by large corporations.  A closer look at these tensions provides insights into how cultural practices can be used to crystallize the essence of a nation, not only during its birth-pangs, but also afterward, when it becomes a mundane feature of the world.  This tour of tea rituals past and present provides insight into one of the fundamental processes of modernity, the work of making nations.

Kristin Surak is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at SOAS, University of London. Her research on topics including international migration, culture, ethnicity, and nationalism has appeared in the European Journal of Sociology, International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Merkur, Lettre International, and the New Left Review

Sponsored by the Carolina Asia Center and the Triangle Center for Japanese Studiessurak058_klein

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