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Fifteen years ago, as he began to search for a topic for his Ph.D. thesis, Chris Reyns-Chikuma wanted to focus on the effects of Japanese culture in France.

“My adviser turned it down,” he says, explaining that he ended up researching and writing about the Holocaust instead.

In the years since, Reyns-Chikuma, now assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures at Lafayette, never quite gave up on exploring the idea, and found an outlet for his research in Images du Japon en France et Ailleurs: Entre Japonisme et Multiculturalisme, released by the French publisher L’Harmattan.

The 250-page book, which translates to Images of Japan in France and Elsewhere: Between Japonism and Multiculturalism, addresses “japonism,” a passion for Japanese things that developed in France in the second half of the 19th century and influenced painting and the minor arts, including jewelry, clothing, and interior decoration.

The book makes the point that while “japonism” flourished in France more than 100 years ago, multiculturalism has not — for reasons that are more cultural than racist.

“It hurts French culture not to adopt the multiculturalist perspective,” Reyns-Chikuma says. “It’s a crime for French artists not to be able to accept that perspective.”

Reyns-Chikuma, who has lived in Japan, holds a master’s degree in Japanese, and is married to a woman of Japanese descent, says the book has allowed him to combine his French cultural background with his deep interest in Japan and its culture.

“Those three reasons helped me to be interested in the topic, obviously,” he says.

Reyns-Chikhuma has another book manuscript under review by a publisher and has written four articles that will be published this year. He is scheduled to present his research this year at Oxford University, Princeton University, the meeting of the European Business History Association in Copenhagen, and the French and Francophone Conference in Florida.

He mentors students in their own research projects. For example, he is guiding French major Jessica Fennell ’06 (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in her yearlong honors thesis exploring the emerging obesity problem in France, particularly among children, and comparing attitudes of the French and Americans toward the phenomenon of obesity in their countries.

Reyns-Chikhuma helped lead a group of Lafayette students abroad for a January interim-session course, Paris: An Introduction to the French Exception.

He earned a Ph.D. and master’s from University of Colorado and a master’s from University of Louvain, Belgium. Prior to joining the Lafayette faculty in 1990, he taught at University of Colorado, Colorado College, Collège Saint-Michel in Brussels, Kumamoto European Language Center in Japan, where he served as assistant director and cofounder, University of Kumamoto, and University of Zaragoza, Spain.

He is a member of the Modern Language Association, American Association of Teachers of French, Association of Asian Studies, American Comparative Literature Association, and Film Studies Association.

Categorized in: Academic News