Hip Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization (Duke University Press, 2006) is the realization of many years of work for Ian Condry, an associate professor of Japanese cultural studies in MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures and a CMS faculty affiliate. In fact, the impetus for the book came from his doctoral dissertation at Yale.
While he has spent a total of about four years in Japan, the majority of the fieldwork completed for the book took place during an 18-month period in 1995-1997.
“After three years of intensive graduate study of Japan, I was in Tokyo for a summer trying to determine a research project for my Ph.D. dissertation,” Condry explains. “I was interested in global and local cultural change. When I happened to hear some Japanese rap music by the groups Rhymester and Scha Dara Parr, I was fascinated by hearing a perspective on Japanese culture that was far different from what I had been reading in grad school about such common topics as salarymen, housewives, the education system and religion.”
Condry started the project to show what Japan looked like from a rapper’s perspective.
“Gradually, I came to see the deeper connections between hip-hop performance and alternative paths of globalization-not Wal-Mart, Disney and the Gap, but underground clubs, far from the big media spotlight, yet nevertheless critical sites of global communication, protest and entertainment,” says Condry, whose project focuses on the Japanese appropriation and adaptations of the hip-hop genre.
Condry has been a fan of hip-hop music since college. “Like many fans, I appreciate the style’s commitment to eclectic music sampling, lyrical creativity and productive questioning of the power of media,” he says.
After spending two years as a visiting assistant professor at Union College’s anthropology department, Condry served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, where he had obtained his Bachelor’s degree before coming to MIT in 2002.
Condry, who studies media, globalization and popular culture in relation to Japan, said that he hopes to illustrate the value of ethnography in understanding mass media through his CMS classes.
“I’m interested in the intersections between media, business and culture,” he says. “I appreciate the intense research environment at MIT.”
Beginning in January 2006, Condry has been organizing Cool Japan: Media, Culture, Technology, a joint project sponsored by the MIT Japan Program, Harvard’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Harvard Asia Center, MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures and CMS.
He is now at work on a related project, Global Anime: The Making of Japan’s Transnational Popular Culture.
“I am interested in the making of global anime cultures, focusing on the creators in Tokyo studios, but also considering wider connections to Asia and the U.S.,” Condry says. “What drives the creativity of anime? How does online sharing, or piracy, of anime affect its transnational flows? How are love and sexuality portrayed in the ‘moe’ boom? Why are there so many giant robots? Anime offers a case study in global media and the transnational dynamics of Japanese culture.”