Asian Studies

Asian Studies Seminar Series: Caroline Astell-Burt

In brief

Date - 3 April 2024

Venue - Project Room 1.06, 50 George Square

Speaker - Dr Caroline Astell-Burt (WAXBaby Productions)

Title - 'Translation of Bodies: performance work of a professional puppeteer inspired by Japanese otome bunraku'

About the event

This talk by Dr Caroline Astell-Burt, a British puppeteer and researcher working with WAXBaby Productions, is a response to otome bunraku, a form of Japanese women’s puppetry. 

Tainted by their association with brothels, Japanese women puppeteers were banned from theatres for over 400 years. In 1926, puppet-maker Hayashi Jiboku created a special brace that enabled one young woman to carry and manipulate one of the three-man-operated bunraku puppets on her own. This brace, called udegane, allowed the puppet to float seemingly unsupported in front of her, to the delight of spectators. Oe Minnosuke adapted the udegane into the dogane which made it possible to carry larger puppets. The women, bare-faced and ‘inhabiting’ the inert stuff of the puppet, offered what became a performative bodily presence encapsulated in what later became otome bunraku.

About the speaker

Caroline Astell-Burt first encountered puppets based on otome bunraku at a training workshop in 2009 at the London School of Puppetry. This developed into a long study of the bodily presence of the puppeteer before being formalised into a doctoral enquiry and the opportunity to observe the extremely rare and beautiful performances at Hitomiza in Japan.

She regularly writes academic articles about puppets and puppetry often within an educational or therapeutic context. She is a puppet-maker, performer and teacher and co-founder of the first full-time professional training for puppeteers in the U.K. She holds two Masters Degrees from Middlesex and Royal Holloway Universities and a doctorate from Loughborough University.

About the seminar series

Each year, Asian Studies welcomes a fantastic range of guest speakers and colleagues to present a seminar on their research, spanning fields as diverse as film and media, literature, religion, society, politics and international relations.

How to join

Events are free and everyone is welcome. No booking is necessary.

Are you interested in studying with us?

We are the only university in Scotland to offer full undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in both Chinese and Japanese, as well as postgraduate programmes in Korean Studies and East Asian Relations.

Find out more about Asian Studies at Edinburgh

a green-y gradient background with a swirl pattern and seminar series title overlaid
Apr 03 2024 -

Asian Studies Seminar Series: Caroline Astell-Burt

Join us in-person for a seminar by Dr Caroline Astell-Burt (WAXBaby Productions) entitled 'Translation of Bodies: performance work of a professional puppeteer inspired by Japanese otome bunraku'. This talk is in partnership with the Japan Foundation.

Project Room 1.06
50 George Square
University of Edinburgh