Kim-Renaud East Asian Humanities Lecture Series


On the occasion of her retirement in June 2015, Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Professor Emeritus, and her husband, Dr. Bertrand Renaud, made a gift to the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures which enabled the continuation of the East Asian Humanities Lecture Series, originally funded by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office. The lecture series aims to bring specialists in East Asian humanities and cultures to GW to encourage cross-disciplinary discussions. The series was renamed the Kim-Renaud East Asian Humanities Lecture Series in 2016. We are delighted that we can continue the lecture series thanks to Professor Kim-Renaud and Dr. Renaud's generosity.

Young-KeyKim-Renaud and Bertrand Renaud



About the Fund

Professor Kim-Renaud and Dr. Renaud’s cumulative philanthropy to the EALL Department and to Korean Studies amounts to half a million dollars. Their personal contribution and volunteer fundraising for the Young-Key Kim-Renaud Fund for Korean Language and Literature exceeded $1 million and helped establish the permanent endowment for a new professorship in the Korean humanities. With the matching grant from the Korea Foundation, Young-Key achieved her $2.5 million goal for the endowed professorship. We are immensely grateful for her generosity and her efforts as well as the support of her family and friends. Professor Kim-Renaud hopes that the GW community (including alumni and friends) will rally around her mission and add to one or both funds with their own donation.

Upcoming Lecture

Japanese Gendered First-person Pronouns: Norms and Innovation of Identity Works

by NAKAMURA Momoko, Ph.D.

Professor of English at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan.

Friday, October 14, 2022   8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST via Zoom

This talk demonstrates how speakers linguistically enact innovative identities despite the restrictions imposed by linguistic norms. Japanese first-person pronouns are gendered; watashi for girls and women (and men in formal situations) and boku for boys and men. While the gendered use of first-person pronouns constitutes the strict norm, Japanese speakers, especially girls, often break the norm to perform novel identities. Japanese gendered first-person pronouns, therefore, provide us interesting data to study the relationships between linguistic norms, gender, and identity construction.

First, I demonstrate that Japanese first-person pronouns were gendered because a modern Japanese language, kokugo, was tailored for male speakers, reflecting the Meiji government’s sexist policy of gendered nationalization which set males as primary citizens and females as secondary citizens during Japan’s modernization period from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. In the process, linguists prescribed pronouns appropriate for male speakers as legitimate kokugo and female speakers ended up using pronouns that have less association with masculinities, creating gendered pronouns. Today, the gendered use of first-person pronouns serves to maintain heteronormativity.

Second, I explore why some girls use nonnormative, masculine pronouns based on the strong link between watashi and female heterosexuality. Previous studies demonstrated that both Japanese girls and boys utilize different first-person pronouns depending on several factors: the lack of a pronoun for preadolescent girls, group memberships in a school classroom, and relationships with the listeners. In addition to these factors, I argue that girls use nonnormative pronouns because they want to postpone accepting female heterosexuality, which is associated with watashi. For preadolescent girls, becoming a heterosexual woman can imply becoming a potential target of sexual abuse. Thus, they avoid watashi and choose other pronouns. Since there is no pronoun for a preadolescent girl in the pronouns system, girls’ use of non-normative pronouns can be considered their attempt to create new, preadolescent girl identities.



About the speaker:

NAKAMURA Momoko, Ph.D. is Professor of English at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan. Her recent publications include Gender, Language and Ideology: A Genealogy of Japanese Women’s Language (2014), Shinkeigo “maji yabaissu” [New Honorifics “Maji yabaissu”] (2020), and Onna kotoba wa tsukurareru [Constructing Women’s Language] (2007, Received the 27th Yamakawa Kikue Award). She has edited several volumes and special issues on language, gender, and sexuality including special issues of Gender & Language (2020) and East Asian Pragmatics (2021) and translated Language and Sexuality by Deborah Cameron and Don Kulick (2003) into Japanese.


Past Lectures