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Indiana University Bloomington

Images of Japan

Michael Foster « Faculty

Michael FosterAssociate Professor, EALC
Associate Professor, Folklore

fosterm at
506 North Fess, Room 202
(812) 855-0395


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I came to IU in 2008 after several years in the Department of Comparative Literature & Foreign Languages at the University of California, Riverside, where I taught Japanese language, literature, folklore and film.

My research focuses on folklore, literature, film and popular culture, primarily in Japan. My first book, Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yôkai, traces how notions of the mysterious and monstrous are articulated both in academic discourses and popular practices from the seventeenth century through the present. I am particularly interested in how those aspects of everyday life that we often take for granted—games, rumors, popular beliefs—reflect broader cultural and historical changes. In this work I focus on conceptions of the "supernatural" to explore representations of the weird (both corporeal and otherwise), the transcendence of normative classification systems, and the many modes by which humans attempt to articulate the inexpressible.

Currently I am working on a new project, titled Visiting Strangers: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Gods, in which I explore the relationship of tourism, ethnography and festival/ritual in Japan. For this project, I am pursuing field research on the Namahage festival in Akita Prefecture and the Toshidon in Kagoshima Prefecture, and will also consider the ethnographic and theoretical observations of Yanagita Kunio, Orikuchi Shinobu, Komatsu Kazuhiko and other folklorists.