Nation-Work: How Tea Became Japanese with Dr. Kristin Surak

Join us for an evening of learning about the relationship between tea and Japanese culture.

Why did an activity as mundane as tea preparation become one of the potent symbols of Japan? Drawing on her award-winning book Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice, Kristin Surak will explore the relationship between culture and nation in tea practices past and present. The discussion will examine the tension-filled transformation of the tea ceremony from an aesthetic pleasure of elite men to a hobby of housewives as it came to embrace not merely the privileged few, but the nation as a whole. It will also probe the ways that tea practitioners today make use of the association between tea and Japanese culture. Taken as a whole, the tea ceremony provides insight into one of the fundamental processes of modernity: the work of making nations.

About the Speaker:

Kristin Surak is an Associate Professor in Japanese Politics at SOAS, University of London and a Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University. Her research on international migration, nationalism, and political sociology has appeared in leading academic and intellectual journals and has been translated into a half-dozen languages. She also publishes in popular outlets, including the London Review of BooksNew Left Review, and the Washington Post.  Her monograph, Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice was named the Book of the Year by the American Sociological Association’s Asia Section. The American Academy of Political and Social Science has recognized her scholarship, which has been funded by the German Science Foundation, Japan Foundation, Fulbright-Hays Foundation, and Leverhulme Foundation, among others. She has been an invited fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Clare Hall, Cambridge University; and the European University Institute.  She comments regularly for the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Channel News Asia TV, and Sky TV News. Her current research investigates the origins and spread of investment migration programs and the global interdependencies that have advanced them.

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