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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 06/04/2007
Journal Abstracts #282: June 4, 2007

Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japanese Studies: May 2007, Vol. 27, No. 1
ISSN: 1037-1397 (Paper), 1469-9338 (Online)


Exteriority and Transcritique: Karatani Kojin and the Impact of the 1990s (pp1-18)
Carl Cassegard (Göteborg University. Sweden)
An indication of the cultural effects of the recession and the end of the Cold War in Japan during the 1990s is the development of the thought of Karatani Kojin. The author traces this development, focusing on the shift from an emphasis on a 'lack of exteriority' in early texts to the idea of 'transcritique' in his recent works. The aim is to elucidate what occasions the shift in his thinking and to what degree the concern with exteriority is retained in the notion of transcritique. The author pays particular attention to Karatani's discussion of the 'centreless' shape of Japanese power and the possibilities of resistance it offers. He also uses the concept of trauma in order to locate Karatani's philosophy in relation to two competing ideas of 'recovery' in contemporary Japan, one nursed by the recession in the 1990s and another by the defeat of the protest movements of the 1960s. The notion of transcritique, the author suggests, is Karatani's response to the wave of neoliberal globalization after the end of the Cold War and the need to think through the implications of this process for the problem of how to counteract 'centreless' power.

Japan in Tianjin: Settlers, State and the Tensions of Empire before 1937 (pp19-34)
Marjorie Dryburgh (University of Sheffield. UK)
This paper will examine the Japanese empire as experience, not as policy, through a study of the Japanese community in Tianjin, north China, before 1937. Recent scholarship on Japanese settlers in East Asia suggests considerable variation within and between communities and Tianjin's location at a key point of Sino-Japanese conflict arguably encouraged a view of China and the Chinese that mirrored the rhetoric of empire. However, settlers valued personal and economic security and status over more abstract questions of national interest, and settler engagement with empire and with the Japanese influence in China varied according to the perceived impact of political developments on personal interests. This engagement can therefore be understood as an extension of the quest for economic opportunity and social capital that was manifested also in factional struggles in concession organisations and in the highly transactional approach to relations with the Japanese state.

'War Fantasy' and Reality - 'War as Entertainment' and Counter-narratives in Japanese Popular Culture (pp35-52)
Matthew Penney (University of Auckland)
In Japan, there exist popular works in a number of media that use fictional narratives of the nation's wartime history as the foundation for science fiction or 'what-if' entertainment. These titles are commonly described as 'war fantasy' and have been condemned as revisionist or even immoral by critics both inside and outside Japan. These criticisms, however, overlook important counter-narratives present in 'war fantasy' titles. Some works look critically at Japan's wars of the 1930s and 1940s as a campaign of aggression and even contain representations of Japanese war crimes and important discussions of past atrocities. This article will examine key examples of Japanese 'war fantasy' to assess how critical views of Japan's wartime past are articulated in popular works. Popular narratives of war often run counter to both government perspectives and the expectations of 'military fans' who consume images of war as a form of entertainment. While many commentators have highlighted a recent shift to the right in Japanese discourse, the trends discussed in this essay suggest that genre works often branded as rightist can manifest important anti-war, anti-militarist themes, demonstrating the pluralistic character of Japanese war representation.

How Young Japanese Express Their Emotions Visually in Mobile Phone Messages: A Sociolinguistic Analysis (pp53-72)
Kazuko Miyake (Toyo University. Japan)
This study explores features of young Japanese people's mobile phone messages (MPMs) and the markedly visual style of presentation which characterises them. The Japanese language's complex writing system facilitates artful manipulation of written forms and playful, radical deviation from conventional use of the language, resulting in a vast number of graphic features, including gyaru-moji and emoji. These innovative and non-standard features paradoxically reflect a strong visual orientation that has always been inherent in the Japanese language. A close analysis of naturally occurring MPM data reveals that they retain important features of traditional Japanese communication: young people seem to enjoy intimacy and creativity while at the same time maintaining a traditional distance and an anxiety to ensure that neither party loses face. This new medium appears to offer a flexible communication space that meets the need that young Japanese feel to create a new style of interaction in a rapidly changing world, while at the same time temporarily allowing them to be free from the pressure to conform to social expectations.

'Almond-Eyed Artisans'/'Dishonouring the National Polity': The Japanese Village Exhibition in Victorian London (pp73-85)
Amelia Scholtz (Rice University. Texas)
This paper looks at the Japanese Village exhibition that was staged in London in 1885. The exhibition purported to provide visitors with a view of a complete Japanese Village, including buildings, artisans and performers. Today, it is chiefly remembered for its role as the model for W. S. Gilbert's staging of The Mikado. By looking at contemporaneous press coverage of the exhibition in both English and Japanese, it seeks to highlight the conflict between laudatory English reactions to the Village and outraged Japanese responses, and between the image of exotic elegance that exhibition organisers sought to create and the reality of exploitation behind such an image. It documents and analyses this curious encounter between Victorian England and a rapidly changing Japan.

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