Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for East Asian Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Ethics
As the scholarship on crossing, translation, appropriation, and related phenomena shows, these processes often serve to reveal and redraw complex boundaries and limits of normativity at varying scales of encompassment, and bring them to heightened consciousness for social actors and institutions as an object of interpretation and intervention. This panel explores the emergent visibility of such consciousness in contemporary Japan, in particular the changing landscape of racial, gender, and communicative difference. Papers of the panel offer ethnographic analysis of reflexive techniques, idioms, and performances that recalibrate and unsettle racial, gender and communicative normativities. Unser-Schutz examines the popular cultural idiom of pathologized communication, or ‘komyusho,’ as its etiology emerges out of the ongoing debate about the separation and crossing of reality and fantasy; Takamori analyzes how signs of racism – e.g. ‘blackface’ in Japanese TV, ‘whitewashing’ in Hollywood – motivate differently positioned subjects to confront the transnational historicity and discontinuity of racializing normativities; Saito considers how the circulation of images of non-normative sexual relations in Japanese media culture, such as TV dramas featuring same-sex marriage, is conducive to competing membership categorizations that shape contours of heteronormativity and perceptions of otherness; and Miyazaki and Furukawa each attends to the value of self-transformation and self-care in the labor of male-to-female crossdressing, or ‘josou,’ among young urban practitioners who mobilize it to animate a certain ideal of personhood. These ongoing attempts at recalibrating normativities in and about Japan are witness to an emergent practical politics of difference and transformation, especially noteworthy as Japan’s political climate oscillates more saliently today than ever between the persistent rhetoric of national-cultural homogeneity and the liberal aspiration for sociocultural diversity (as occasioned, for example, by the business of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo). How do these moments of crossing, appropriating, othering, and translating resonate with the sociohistorical structure of inequality, injustice, and violence? How are they constructing new pleasures and demanding new aesthetic and ethical responses? What critical space are they carving out in relation to the global circulation of the literacy of gender and race politics, progressive and yet at once hegemonic (and, at times, very American)? How might they demand recalibration and transformation in our theoretical habits and methodological strategies?