ICAS Event: Academic Conference - “Politics of Popular Culture”

June 26th, 2010 (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. / reception from 5:00 p.m.)
June 5th, 2010 (10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. / reception from 6:00 p.m.) (Part I of the conference has concluded)
TUJ Mita Hall 5F (Access)
Kyle Cleveland (Temple University, Japan Campus) and David Slater (Sophia University)
¥ 1,000 per date (includes reception)
RSVP is now closed (please indicate which date to attend)

Overview of Conference

“Politics of Popular Culture” will focus on developments in digital media and youth subcultures and explore how these are being employed for political means and driving social trends in Japanese popular culture.

This two-part conference, hosted by the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan Campus, will be held on June 5 and June 26, and will include a diverse array of academic panels comprised of leading scholars of Japanese popular culture.

The opening session on June 5 will examine how popular culture is informing emerging alternative cultures and practices, and shaping notions of Japanese national identity and foreign policy, as the “soft power” appeal of the popular becomes politicized. The keynote speaker will be Frederik Schodt, author of “Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics,” and “Dreamland Japan: Writing on Modern Manga.”

“Gendered Labor in Popular Culture,” on June 26, will address how constructions of gender identity are developing institutional presence as forms of “affective labor” (in areas such as enjo kosai, hostesses, hosts, maid-cafes) which represent evolving notions of gender and sexuality in Japan. The keynote address will be given by Anne Allison, Professor of Anthropology at Duke University, and author of “Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club" and “Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan.”

Part 2 "Gendered Labor in Popular Culture" (June 26th)


9:30 a.m.
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Panel 1 - "Shifting Boundaries of Gender and Popular Culture"
Gabriella Lukacs ( University of Pittsburgh)
Cell Phone Novelists as New Labor Subjectivities in Post-Recessionary Japan”

Aya Kitamura (Meiji Gakuin University)
"Marketing the Marriage Market: Effects and Affects of the 'Konkatsu Boom'"

Hiroki Ichinose (Digital Hollywood)
“Trained to do the Mothering: Implicit Genderization of the Managerial Coaching Training”

Satsuki Takahashi (Rutgers University)
“Mamma-ization: Changing Nature and Women’s Labor in a Fishing Village”

Sharon Kinsella, (University of Manchester)

12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Keynote Lecture
Anne Allison, (Duke University): "What Difference Does Gender (Still) Make?"
2:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
2:45 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Panel 2 - "Service Labor, Gender and Affect"
David H. Slater (Sophia University)
“Enjo Kosai and the Ambiguities of Entrepreneurial Labor”

Haeng-ja Chung, (Hamilton College)
"Making Hostess Skills Visible: Affective Labor at the High-End Clubs in Japan"

Nana Okura Gagne (Yale Universitiy /Waseda University)
“Inalienated Exchange Through Care and Affect: Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity through Gendered Service in Tokyo Hostess Clubs”

Akiko Takeyama (University of Kansas)
“Affect Economy of the 'Geisha Guys': Labor, Commodity, and Subjectivity in Tokyo Host Clubs”

Patrick Galbraith (University of Tokyo)
“Maid cafes and the Structure of Intimacy in Neoliberal Japan”

Anne Allison, (Duke University)

5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

[Abstracts for "Gender labor in Popular Culture"]

Marketing the Marriage Market: Effects and Affects of the "Konkatsu Boom"
Aya Kitamura, Meiji Gakuin University

Marriage in modern society has always been a synch point between socioeconomic and political agendas and highly personal, individual pursuits. In Japan, the recent boom of konkatsu—curiously given gendered translations such as "marriage partner hunting" in relation to women and "quest for successful marriage" in relation to men—concerns not only those who are "in the market" but also the commercial powers that create and intensify the "market" along with the desires and fears therein. Through analyzing konkatsu-related media coverage, advertisements, and lived experiences of single women and men, I will explore the emotional and sociopolitical consequences that the gendered politics of the trend precipitates.

Cell Phone Novelists as New Labor Subjectivities in Post-Recessionary Japan
Gabriella Lukacs, University of Pittsburgh

This presentation will analyze a recent Japanese trend—the young female cell phone novelist boom—that evolved in the early 2000s in the aftermath of the deregulation of the communication industries. By tackling themes such as unrequited love, rape, or fatal disease, cell phone novelists draw on the repertory of affective capture to appeal to their readers. I argue that cell phone novelists illustrate a new trend, namely that as personalized entertainment is ever more in demand in Japanese late consumer capitalism, the ability to perform affective labor is becoming more and more strategically important.

Mamma-ization: Changing Nature and Women's Labor in a Fishing Village
Satsuki Takahashi, Rutgers University

How does the disappearance of natural resources generate cultural change among those most directly involved in exploiting them? One possibility is suggested by the entrepreneurial activity of women in a Japanese fishing town that faced declining catches. Their fish vendor business—casually called hama no kāchan no mise, the "coastal mamma's" shop—was developed with prefectural officials responsible for promoting survival strategies for Japan's coastal fisheries while implementing severe cuts in support to fisheries families. This paper investigates how environmental resources play a part in shaping the gendered structure of labor and the cultural consequences of neoliberal reform.

Trained to do the Mothering: Implicit Genderization of the Managerial Coaching Training
Hiroki Ichinose, Digital Hollywood University

Based on an ethnographic study of a managerial training program of a Japanese corporation, the paper examines how the training program discursively constructs "business coaching" as a set of managerial communication skills for Japanese middle managers. In so doing, it attempts to show that the managerial coaching training is structured to achieve an implicit genderization: a clandestine discursive shift from benevolent maternalism to self-sacrificing maternalism. Such a discursive operation, the paper argues, serves to induce a change in attitude and behavior on the part of the manager, by portraying their workplace "problems" as a reflection of their spiritual weakness.

What Difference Does Gender (Still) Make?
Anne Allison, Duke University

If gender, as so many scholars and feminists have long argued, is premised on a logic of difference and the differential roles assigned labor within the family, what happens in an era when family and labor itself is so radically in flux? As Donna Haraway argued in her now classic "Cyborg Manifesto," anatomy no longer needs to, or should, be the determinant of identity (or social politics). But as bodies, and life, become increasingly deterritorialized, gender has hardly disappeared. What precisely is sustaining, producing, or enabling gender in the 21st century, and what precisely is gender under current conditions of precarity, neoliberalism, and digitalization? The talk will address these questions both theoretically, and through the lens of contemporary Japan.

Enjo Kosai and the Ambiguity of Affect
David H. Slater, Sophia University

The production, management and entanglements of affect have become one of the primary foci in much discussion of flexible service work and immaterial capital labor more generally. This paper outlines briefly some of the thinking on affect and affective labor, and explores the degree to which it makes sense to consider it institutionalized, embodied and gendered; its paradoxical nature of being both highly exploitative and highly sought after; and possible source of biopower or political practice more generally. I will explore this question through ethnography of enjo kosai and subsequent forms 'labor in the bodily mode.'

Inalienated Exchange of Care and Affect: Rethinking Hegemonic Masculinity through Gendered Service in Tokyo Hostess Clubs
Nana Okura Gagné, Yale University/Waseda Univesity

The representation of salarymen as hegemonic masculinity dominates in Japan despite a two-decade recession and neoliberal economic reforms. While hostess clubs appear to be places where women are commodified and rendered subservient to men, my research reveals subtler power relations; men invest the most emotional work whereas women are more often concerned with intra-gender tensions and power relations among other women. I describe how homosocial subjectivities and emotional exchanges deflect and mitigate heterosexual/heterosocial issues by disrupting ideological links between gender and power, and reveal how gendered desires through "give-and-take" relationships create a sense of inalienation and fluidity in power relations.

Making Hostess Skills Visible: Ethnic and Affective Labor at the High-End Clubs in Japan
Haeng-ja Chung, Hamilton C./University of Tokyo

In this paper, I will deconstruct hostess affective labor at the high-end clubs where ethnicity, sexuality, language, and class intersect and affect one another. This presentation is based upon my long-term fieldwork (1997, 1999, 2000-2001, 2008-2010) in Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Los Angeles, and Seoul. I conducted intensive labor participant observation as a paid hostess at multiple sites, such as Korean and Japanese clubs. I investigate what kinds of skills are required for high-end hostesses, analyze an ethnographic case study where multi-ethnic hostesses, customers, and mama participate, and attempt to expand the notion of affective labor.

Affect Economy: Labor, Commodity, and Subjectivity in Tokyo Host Clubs
Akiko Takeyama, University of Kansas

This paper examines host club scenes where men and women attempt to construct their "most desirable selves" in contrast to Japan's conventionally hegemonic middle-class icons: selflessly devoted "salary men" and mother figure. Situating the host club in Japan's socio-historical transformation and global economic trends, this paper will offer a unique window into the social processes that capitalize on male and female affect to fulfill individual desires and increase sales and profit. The end result of this process is, I argue, a commercialization of feelings, emotions, desires, and the desirable self itself — what I call an "affect economy."

Maid cafes and the Structure of Intimacy in Neoliberal Japan
Patrick Galbriath, Tokyo University

This paper presents ethnography of maid cafes to examine shifts in the structure of intimacy in Japan since the 1990s. Maid cafes to examine are a form of entertainment dining featuring staff in costumes who perform characters drawn from anime, manga and videogames. I argue that maid cafes of the post-Bubble period are a dysfunctional form of play reinforcing the alternative fantasy orientation of those alienated by the socioeconomic regime. Regulars consume to build an alternative space, self and sociality, and for some that possibility exists only as fantasy. They do not (or cannot) think about society or future as they invest, both economically and emotionally, in the maid performance.

Part 1 "Politics of Popular Culture" (June 5th)

[Abstract for Panel Presentations]


9:30 a.m.
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Panel 1 - "Gaming Reality: The Politics of Digital Appropriation"
John G. Russell, (Gifu University)
"Don't (It) Make My Brown Face Blue: Racial Avatars and the Embodiment of Alien Others in Contemporary Science Fiction"

Peter Mantello, (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University)
"Aesthetics and Politics of First Person Shooter Games"

Rebecca Suter, (University of Sydney)
“Creative Misreadings of Christianity in the Samurai Shodown Videogame Series”

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Keynote Address
[Keynote Speaker]
Frederik Schodt
Manga as 20th Century Ukiyo-e: The Past, Present, and Future of the J-pop Engine

Introduction: Kyle Cleveland (Temple University, Japan Campus)

1:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
1:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
Panel 2 - "Politicalizing Otaku"
Patrick Galbraith, (University of Tokyo)
“Otakuology: Otaku, Media and the Academy”

Roland Kelts, (University of Tokyo)
"The Politics of Nation Branding via Pop Culture: Why 'Cool Japan' is No Longer Enough"

Morikawa, Kaichiro, (Meiji University), “Popular Culture Politics”

Frederik Schodt

3:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Panel 3 - "The Policits of Popular Culture"
David Leheny, (Princeton University)
"Soft Power Goes Regional: Appeal as International Norm"?

Dan White, (Rice University)
"Affecting Cultural Expediency: Observations From the Field on Soft Power's Interpretations, Applications, and Emergent Forms of Life"

Kukhee Choo, (National University of Singapore)
"Cool Japan and the Trajectory of Japan's Soft Power"

Anne Allison (Duke University), and Iwabuchi Koichi (Waseda University)

6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

About ICAS
The Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS) is an organization dedicated to fostering study and research on various topics related to contemporary Japan and Asia.

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