Design a site like this with
Get started

SPAS Graduate Conference 2022

Technologies & Adaptations: Celebrating Innovations in Human Knowledge Across Asia

April 6-7, 2022

The past few decades have seen rapid advancements in technologies throughout Asia, affecting how people across the region live, work, and understand the world around them. “Technology” not only encompasses computer advancements and applied sciences, but also to the practical application of knowledge across the spectrum of the human experience.  From computer science to political science, from robotics to literature, from engineering to the performing arts, new technological innovations continue to emerge across disciplines throughout Asia, while traditional technologies continue to be adapted by its users to reflect our brave new world.

Best Paper Prize Winners


The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Pacific and Asian Studies Graduate Student Conference is an annual event inviting graduate students in any academic discipline with a focus on Asia to present their research.

The conference has been held for over three decades and gives students an opportunity to present their research to a friendly group of peers and professors. As many students from across the United States, Europe, and Asia attend the conference, there are ample opportunities to network with fellow academics with a passion for the study of Asia.

Keynote Speaker

Jennifer Robertson

Professor Emerita, University of Michigan and Affiliate Professor, University of Washington

Bio. Jennifer Robertson is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and the History of Art at the University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor. She is also an affiliate faculty of the Robotics Institute at Michigan, and Affiliate Professor of Anthropology and Japan Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Robertson’s seven books and over eighty articles and chapters address a wide spectrum of subjects in Anthropology, History of Art, and Japan Studies ranging from the 17th century to the present. Among her books are Native and Newcomer: Making and Remaking a Japanese City (1991) and Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (1998, Japanese edition 2000), and Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation (2018). She is currently researching, writing, and editing articles on the cultural history of Japanese popular eugenics, bio-art and contemporary art, and human-robot interfaces on and off stage in Japan and elsewhere. 

“Robots, Religion, and Techno-Spirituality in Japan

Abstract. Many Japanese roboticists building humanoids today have sought to imbue their gendered robots with kokoro (heartmind, mindful heart). Recently, the scholarly and popular media alike have announced the advent of “robot priests,” two of which include SoftBank’s humanoid Pepper that debuted in 2015, and Mindar, an android bodhisattva commissioned in 2019 by a temple in Kyoto. I discuss (and demystify) both Mindar’s interactive capabilities and Pepper’s “emotional recognition engine,” and clarify the declaration by pioneering roboticist Mori Masahiro that robots have the “Buddha-nature” within them. In addition to stressing the many differences between science fiction and real-world robots—as they tend to be conflated by many people—I explore how robotic technologies are deployed by humans in Japan and elsewhere as well, to give shape and expression to their spiritual ideas, beliefs, and needs.

Conference Flyer

Co-sponsored by the School of Pacific and Asian Studies (SPAS) and Department of Asian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with funding by SEED Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Success (IDEAS) and the Student Activity and Program Fee Board (SAPFB).

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution. For disability accommodations, contact and send advance notice to 808-956-6085.