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In Session: Spaces Seen and Unseen in Literature in Japanese 1989-2019
1: The Strange Birds and Beasts in Oyamada Hiroko's
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Sophia University, Japan
Oyamada Hiroko (b. 1983) creates a heterotopia filled with strange birds and beasts in her novella “The Factory” to reflect and problematize the real-life issues of an underclass of underpaid menial workers trapped in demeaning jobs in contemporary Japanese society. The spatial dimension of her heterotopia is an immense industrial zone that resembles a full-fledged town, but space alone is not the determining factor in the formulation of her heterotopia. It is the nonhuman living creatures—numerous haunting black and grey birds called “factory cormorants,” oversized rodents called “nutoria,” and creepy “washing machine lizards”—that make her imaginary landscape eerie and bizarre, but at the same time serve as a mirror and a connection to a real place inhabited by humans rendered less-than-human by virtue of the mode of employment and the alienating nature of their jobs. Narrated through the perspectives of three employees, “The Factory” reveals a heterotopia that is as strange as it is familiar in comparison to an expanding stratum in contemporary Japanese society where humans work, live, and perish like the mysterious birds and beasts in the story. This paper will examine the transformation of reality into an “unreal and virtual space”—a Foucauldian mirror—and discuss Oyamada’s ability to deliver astute social critique in the heterotopic “factoryland” of fantastical living creatures.