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Dr Brigitte Steger ブリギッテ・シテーガ

Japanese society, with emphasis on the cultural history and anthropology of daily life, including studies of sleep, gender, and the impact of the 2011 tsunami
Dr Brigitte Steger, ブリギッテ・シテーガ

University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Studies (Society)

Japanese Studies Exam Coordinator

Fellow, Tutor and AMES Director of Studies at Downing College

Secretary General of the Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS)

Member of the Academic Committee at the UC Centre for Gender Studies

Member of Advisory Board (Beirat) of the Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung; the Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies; and Yuzu Kyodai.

On sabbatical in Michaelmas term (autumn) 2018.

Office Phone: 01223 335140


Brigitte Steger is Austrian and earned her Mag. phil. and Dr. phil. degrees in Japanese Studies (with minors in Sociology and Political Science) from the University of Vienna. From 1994-1996 she spent two years at the University of Kyoto conducting research for her doctoral dissertation; in 2002/03, 2006, 2011 and 2014 she was visiting researcher at Tokyo’s Meiji, Sophia and Keio Universities. She has many years of teaching and research experience at the University of Vienna, and has also held posts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Karoli Gaspar University in Budapest. Her teaching mainly deals with the various aspects of Japanese society, with intercultural communication as well as with methodologies and methods in qualitative social science research. 

Subject groups/Research projects

Japanese Studies:

Research Interests

Brigitte Steger specializes in Japanese society, with emphasis on the cultural history and anthropology of daily life. In her research, she has always been intrigued by questions of the cultural and social embeddedness of seemingly natural, bodily matters and daily life. Her master’s thesis explored childbirth and midwifery from sociological and political perspectives, especially the incorporation of midwifery into police administration and of the introduction of concepts of hygiene in modern Japan. Her doctoral dissertation dealt with sleep, especially sleeping times. She is best known for her research on inemuri, which has received world-wide attention. For her doctoral dissertation she was awarded the ‘Bank Austria Prize 2002 for the Promotion of Innovative Research at the University of Vienna’. (Keine) Zeit zum Schlafen? Kulturhistorische und sozialanthropologische Erkundungen japanischer Schlafgewohnheiten. (Münster: LIT 2004) earned her the ‘Science Award of the Federal State of Vorarlberg, Austria, 2005, Special Award for an Outstanding Publication’. Consequently she was also nominated as ‘Austrian of the Year’ at the ‘Austria 2005’ awards ceremony in the category of science and research. Her book Inemuri: Wie die Japaner schlafen und was wir von ihnen lernen können (Rowohlt, 2007) was published in Braille in 2008 and has been translated into Japanese, published at Hankyu Communications (now: CCC Media) in early summer 2013. Further details of Steger's research on sleep. In spring 2016 the alumni magazine CAM 77 published an essay on 'The Big Sleep' (on inemuri) which was republished at the BBC worldwide website in May 2016 and translated into many languages.

The tsunami disasters of March 2011 prompted her to travel to northeastern Japan, where she was the only researcher to live alongside survivors in a shelter. She observed that problems with cleanliness became a symbol of shared suffering in the shelters, and that survivors tried to regain a sense of normality by organising household routines according to deeply rooted social structures. Further details of Steger's research project.

Steger heads the Japanese Gender Research Group at FAMES; with Angelika Koch she has published Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy. Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge  (Lit 2013) and Cool Japanese Men: Studying New Masculinities at Cambridge (Lit 2017).

Steger also heads an international research project titled ‘Timing day and night: timescapes in premodern Japan’. Using an ethnographic approach based on premodern Japanese sources as well as new digital search tools, we focus on time as a set of practices, analysing what sense people made of zodiacs, temple bells, animal behaviour and plant cycles to co-ordinate social activities. The group aims to challenge European-based social theories of time, and their focus on the mechanical clock, in order to better understand Japan’s transition to modernity. The first workshop took place in April 2015; a selection of articles from this workshop were published in the journal KronoScope (co-edited with Raji Steineck) in March 2017.

Other Professional Activities

Courses Taught

J.5 Text reading (second year course)

J.9 Japanese Society (second year optional course; Introduction to Japanese society) + supervisions

J.19 Contemporary Japanese Society (fourth year optional course; specific topics on Japanese society) + supervision: in 2017-18 the topic is 'Gender and gender studies in Japan'.

Steger also contributes to the 'Gender Theory and Controversy' paper at the MPhil in Gender Studies as well as for graduate seminars in Japanese Studies and for EAS.1.


Graduate Supervision

Steger welcomes inquiries from talented young scholars to work under her supervision. She is willing and able to supervise a wide range of topics related to Japanese society that are based on fieldwork. She supervises a number of undergraduate dissertations on contemporary Japanese society each year.

Graduate students supervised:

Gitte Hansen (PhD; advisor 2008-2011, supervisor from 2011; graduated 2013); femininity and eating disorders

Angelika Koch (PhD; advisor; acting supervisor in Lent and Easter terms 2009; graduated 2014); sex and health education for men in premodern Japan

Meng Liang (MPhil, PhD; supervisor; graduated 2015); Chinese labour migrants to rural Japan

Hiroko Umegaki Constantini (PhD; supervisor; graduated 2017); masculinities in the extended family

Nanase Shirota (PhD; supervisor); ethnography of listening

Christopher Tso (PhD; supervisor); male beauty work

Jessica Fernandez de Lara Harada (PhD; advisor); Japanese living in Mexico

Beverly Chen (MPhil; supervisor; graduated 2016); female heroines

Wei-Chuan Chen (MPhil; supervisor; graduated 2017); Taiwanese female employees in transnational companies in Tokyo

Rea Eldem (MPhil in Gender Studies); beauty ideals and plastic surgery of Korean women

Zheng Shiyin (Judy) (MPhil in Gender Studies); representation of violence and sexuality of fighting women in Japanese anime.

Key Publications

2017    with Angelika Koch (eds): Cool Japanese Men: Studying New Masculinities at Cambridge. Zurich: Lit.

2017    ‘Introduction from the Guest Editors to the Special Issue “Time in Historic Japan”, with Raji Steineck, KronoScope 17/1, 7–15.

2017    ‘Japanese Historic “Timescapes”: An Anthropological Perspective’, KronoScope 17/1, 37–60.

2017    ‘Densha no naka no inemuri: Shanai kūkan to jendā o kōsatsu suru’, 21seiki Ajia kenkyū 15, 53-74.

2016    ‘Landschaften der Zeit: Tages- und Nachtstunden im vormodernen Japan’, Österreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft (eds): Zeit in den Wissenschaften. Wien: Böhlau, 46–83.

2016    ‘Getting Away with Sleep. Social and Cultural Aspects of Dozing in Parliament,’ Eric L. Hsu (ed.): Sleep. Critical Concepts in Sociology. Vol. IV: Sleep Across the World and Ages. London: Routledge, 277-298.

2016    with Lodewijk Brunt: ‘Introduction: Into the Night and the World of Sleep’, Eric L. Hsu (ed.): Sleep. Critical Concepts in Sociology. Vol. II: Pioneering Sleep Research. London: Routledge, 18-42.

2013    ‘Negotiating gendered space on Japanese commuter trains’, Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 13/3 (September) (

2013    Sekai ga mitometa Nippon no inemuri. Tsūkin densha no utouto ni mo imi ga atta! [The world has recognised Japanese inemuri. There was a meaning in napping on commuter trains!]. Tōkyō: Hankyū Communications, 245 pp.

2013    with Tom Gill and David Slater (eds) Higashi-Nihon daishinsai no jinruigaku. Tsunami, genpatsu jiko to hisaisha-tachi no ‘sono go’ [Anthropology of the East-Japan great earthquake disaster. The aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear disasters for the victims]. Kyoto: Jinbun Shoin, 376 pp. 2nd rev. edition 2014.

2013    Japan copes with calamity. Ethnographies of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters of March 2011. Edited with Tom Gill and David Slater. Oxford: Peter Lang, 328 pp. Updated trade edition February 2015.

2013    Manga girl seeks herbivore boy. Studying Japanese gender at Cambridge. Edited with Angelika Koch. Münster et al.: LIT, 230 pp.

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