One of this year’s major cultural events related to Japan has been the Manga exhibition hosted by the British Museum – “the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.” It opened on May 23, and immediately received significant critical attention. The Economist praised it as a “dynamic, exuberant and ambitious celebration of Japan’s comic-art narrative form”, as did the Financial Times, while responses in The Guardian (“asking us to compare today’s graphic artists with greats of the past is misguided”) and The Telegraph (“is Manga really as significant as Rodin and the Ancient Greeks?”) were not as enthusiastic. In any case, an exhibition of this scale – and at this kind of venue – attracts attention.

And now, following up on the exhibition’s success, and connected to it, the British Library has announced plans to host a special one-day What is Manga academic symposium that will bring together many of the world’s leading scholars of manga specifically and comics/sequential art in general, as well as museum practitioners, and a range of international perspectives for a discussion on manga in a global context and the role of cultural institutions such as the British Museum in preserving, presenting, and promoting manga. The Symposium is open to the public, but tickets must be purchased via the British Library website.

What is Manga – Exploring Japanese Manga and Visual Narratives
[full program – PDF]

Friday, August 23
10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The British Library
Knowledge Centre Theatre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB


10:20 a.m.
Opening Remarks
Dr. Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)

10:30 a.m.
Keynote Address
Manga Studies’ “Manga” and the Outsider Perspective: Intercultural Observations
Prof. Jaqueline Berndt (Stockholm University)

Dr. Berndt is one of the world’s leading scholars of Japanese comics. He work has included editing the essay collections Manga’s Cultural Crossroads and Reading Manga: Local and Global Perceptions of Japanese Comics, a number of individual chapters and journal articles that have been fundamental to shaping the field of manga studies (particularly important examples include ‘Historical adventures of a post-historical medium: Japan’s wartime past as represented in manga’, ‘Manga, which manga? Publication formats, genres, users’, and ‘Reconsidering manga discourse: Location, ambiguity, historicity’), and teaching several pioneering classes

11:00 a.m. – 1:20 p.m.
Panel 1: Manga and Comic Theory and Iconography (manga hyōgenron)

11:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
Manga Iconography
Ito Go (Tokyo Polytechnic University) and Natsume Fusanosuke (Gakushuin University)

11:40 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.
Shojo Manga
Yamada Tomoko (Meiji University) and Takemiya Keiko (President, Kyoto Seika University)

12:20 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Manga Literacy: A Case Study of Gigatown by Kono Fumiyo
Yoshimura Kazuma (Kyoto Seika University)

1:00 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.
Nicole Rousmaniere (Professor, University of East Anglia and IFAC Handa Curator of Japanese Arts, The British Museum)
Prof. Rousmaniere is the lead curator of the Manga exhibition.

1:20 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
Lunch Break

2:20 p.m. – 3.15 p.m.
Panel 2: The Historical Roots of Manga

2:20 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.
From ‘Ehon to ‘Manga’
Ryoko Matsuba (Sainsbury Institute for the Study for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)

2:20 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Kitazawa Rakuten and Modern Manga
Ronald Stewart (Daito Bunka University)

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Prof. Adam Kern (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
author, Manga From the Floating World: Comic Book Culture and the Kibiyoshi of Edo Japan

3:15 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Panel 3: Manga in the Museum

3:15 p.m. – 3:55 p.m.
Manga in Japanese Museums
Ito Yu and Yoo Sookyung (Kyoto International Manga Museum)

3:55 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Hokusai x Manga. Displaying Japanese Popular Culture
Simon Klingler (Research Associate, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg)

4:15 p.m. – 4:35 p.m.
Manga in the British Museum
Nicole Rousmaniere

4:35 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
Dr. Ian Hague (University College of the Arts, London)
author, Comics and the Senses: A Multisensory Approach to Comics and Graphic Novels

4:50 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Roundtable Discussion
Roger Sabin (Professor of Popular Culture, University of the Arts London)

2 Comments on ‘What is Manga’ British Library Symposium

  1. Hi there,

    was this event recorded at all? I’d love to have access to a transcriopt or recording for purposes of study?

    All the best,

    • To the best of my knowledge, it was not, and I don’t know if there are plans for anything like an essay collection based on the individual presentations. But you can try contacting some of the speakers to see if they could at least share copies of their papers with you – or ask if they are planning on developing them into articles.

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