Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Rea Amit originally became interested in studying different cultures through film. As he learned about Japan and other parts of Asia through assorted media, his focus gradually shifted to the nature and origin of media themselves.
“How my knowledge of Asia was mediated by different media outlets became my main focus,” Amit said.
Before becoming an undergraduate student at Tel Aviv University, Amit headed out on his first trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. Amit was fascinated by the places he encountered and settled in Tokyo, Japan, in 2010 to earn his master’s degree and immerse himself in the local language and culture. Amit, who has visited Tokyo every summer since he left, describes it as feeling both like home and alienating.
“It’s a super stimulating, energetic city – it’s not even a city, it’s a huge area,” Amit said. “It has everything and it’s changing so rapidly. I just love going back.”
Amit is currently in the process of finishing a comparative study of Japanese and Indian media. The project focuses on inter-Asian perspectives, or South and East Asia’s perception of one another, through media. Amit has visited India twice for the study to learn Hindi and conduct research. He plans to visit once more before the project is complete.
“People had to come up with these images through what they read because even Japanese movies did not come to India that quickly,” he said. “They had to kind of puzzle together this image of Japan.”
Amit was intrigued to discover that perspectives on Japan in 19th century Indian media were very similar to those in Western media. He believes that inter-Asian perspectives are underrepresented in the broader field of Asian Studies.
“Lots of research has been done on how the west depicts the east and how the image of Asia is being construed, particularly in the west, in the U.S. and in Europe,” Amit said. “No one is really paying attention to how the East depicts itself.”
In the classroom, Amit hopes to provide students with perspectives they had not previously considered. He wants to strike a balance between catering to the interests of students and unexpected or undiscovered areas of study.
“I want to still have them study something they did not know they were interested in because they did not know it existed or didn’t know it was interesting,” Amit said.