Japan Foundation Fellow Lunch Seminar: From Selling Tea to Selling Japaneseness: The Rise of the Iemoto

Today it is taken for granted that the masters of tea preparation are the iemoto. Wrapped in kimono, they serve the beverage to prime ministers, presidents, and popes, and lead flocks of hundreds of thousands of practitioners down the Path of Tea. How did they come to possess the ultimate authority over the tea world? And why have mere tea experts been transformed into the living embodiment of Japanese culture? Drawing on over ten years of research, Kristin Surak will discuss the historical rise of the iemoto and their transformation over time. First she will explore how the mere practice of serving tea was transformed into a cultural field, and the ways that the iemoto, from the eighteenth to twentieth century, monopolized legitimate authority over the value, taste, and technique that define the practice. Then she will examine how in more recent decades the iemoto have been transformed from the ultimate authority over the tea ceremony to preeminent representatives of Japan, and the impact of these national inflections on organizational reproduction of the tea world.

Read an essay written by Kristin Surak in Wochi Kochi Magazine

Date & Time

Thursday, July 10, 2014 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.


Kristin Surak is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Japanese Politics at SOAS, University of London who specializes in culture, ethnicity, nationalism, and international migration.

Her book "Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice" was published by Stanford University Press in 2013, and her articles on nation-building, capitalism and ethnicity, and migration policies have appeared in the European Journal of Sociology, International Migration Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Lettre International, Merkur, and the New Left Review. For her work, she has been named a Chancellor's Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles and a Graduate Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and has received awards and fellowships from the Japan Foundation, European University Institute, Frankfurt University, the Sainsbury Foundation, and the Fulbright-Hays Foundation, among others. Her current research compares migration regimes and temporary migrant labor programs in East Asia and across the globe.


Language The presentation will be in English, but Q and A session could be both in English and Japanese.
Registration To sign up, please E-mail (oca@jpf.go.jp) us.
Admission free. Please bring your lunch.
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