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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
Jochi Kioizaka Bldg. 2F
7-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102-0094, Japan

03 – 3222 5077
03 – 3222 5420


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The DIJ History and Humanities Study Group is a forum open to scholars working on Japan in any field of the humanities. It is organized by Barbara Geilhorn, Torsten Weber and Isaac Gagné.

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Learning to be funny: Training and social relationships in Rakugo

5. März 2020 / 18:30h

Sarah Stark, Ghent University

Kabuki actors learn their skills from their fathers. Ikebana students pay their master for lessons. In contrast, artistic lineage in rakugo is not hereditary, and performers do not acquire their stories and acting skills in acting schools or from their fathers. Newcomers to the rakugo profession start their apprenticeship with a shishō, a master, without paying any compensation. For the rest of both of their lives the shishō is responsible for his deshi’s (disciple) education and accountable for his off-stage behaviour. In return, the shishō expects his deshi’s unquestioning loyalty, obedience and subordination.

Newcomers are not only raised by their own shishō, they receive their education from the rakugo community through working in the yose’s (rakugo performance space) green room. Performers have to follow orders of any peer who has been in the trade longer than him or herself: strict training and strict hierarchy legitimize their participation in the rakugoka community.

The presentation provides a perspective on access to knowledge, knowledge acquisition, learning processes and structures inside Tokyo’s yose theatres, as well as social relations among the stakeholders of the rakugo world. Sarah Stark’s research is based on an analysis of printed interviews, autobiographies as well as one-on-one interviews with Tokyo rakugoka.

Sarah Stark is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Department of Languages and Cultures at Ghent University.