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National Symposium of Leading Graduate Students Explores Minorities in Japanese Society
William Dunbar of UCLA introduces Panel I speakers and discussant.

National Symposium of Leading Graduate Students Explores Minorities in Japanese Society

Tenth Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Japanese Studies was held at UCLA May 3. Eleven top graduate students from nine universities present views of "The Other Within." Here are abstracts of their provocative papers.

Mariko Bird Email MarikoBird

The UCLA Center for Japanese Studies celebrated the tenth anniversary of its graduate student symposium in Japanese Studies on May 3, 2003. This annual event is run by a committee of graduate students, from deciding on the topic to selecting presenters and faculty discussants. This year's committee consisted of six students: Jennifer Cullen (EALC), Ann Marie Davis (History), William Dunbar (East Asian Languages & Cultures), Yeun-jee Song (History), Hisayo Suzuki (EALC), and Michiko Takeuchi (History). They chose the theme "The Other WithinEwhich intended to focus on marginalized voices in reputedly homogeneous Japan. Twelve papers were selected from 39 submissions from across the nation and Canada, and eleven were presented to the audience of 60, which filled the room at UCLA's Bradley International Hall. There were four sessions, with a faculty discussant commenting, posing questions and making suggestions at the end of each panel.

Following are abstracts of proceedings.

Panel 1: “Constructing the Other"
Discussant: Professor Seiji Lippit, UCLA

Puck Brecher, University of Southern California
“Reassessing the Kijin (Eccentric) as ‘Other in Bakumatsu Japan'

This paper examines kijin (eccentric literati) as social actors during the last century of Japan's Edo Period and discusses the sociological phenomenon of eccentrism as well as problems with its treatment by recent historiography. The view of kijin as social outsiders, as politically or socially destabilizing, and as representing a tacit resistance to the Tokugawa order reads non-conformity as resistance and situates aesthetics within the realm of politics. It was, on the contrary, the very apoliticality of these individuals that accounts for the extraordinary social tolerance of eccentrism and which enabled “ki" to become a canonical repository of cultural capital. The prominence of kijin became integral to both the development of cultural production and to the modernization of the individual in 19th century Japan.

Manuel Yang, University of Toledo
“Shinjin, Asian Agricultural Commune, and the Historical Origins of Burakumin"

The dominant buraku scholarship in postwar Japan has had a tendency to trace the cause of the discriminations against the inhabitants of the buraku [villages in which outcaste groups or their descendants live, such as animal slaughterers] to either the early modern legal sanctions against the eta/hinin or the customary distinctions meted out on the senmin. However, as Yoshimoto Taka'aki argues, if we were to grasp the deeper historical structure of these discriminations, we must situate them in the context of the formation and development of the Asian agrarian commune, in the division that existed between the peasants who did the work of cultivating the land within this system and those who were assigned non-agricultural, often sacred functions at its periphery. For the buraku traces its ideological lineage from the latter group, the shinjin, who were responsible for the creation of culture and civilization in ancient Japan. In order to deepen and clarify the nature of this historical structure of buraku discrimination further, we would do well to combine Yoshimoto's theory of the Asian agricultural commune with the historiographical method of analyzing the commons and its moral economy of customary laws, rights, and rituals that the Warwick school of history has pioneered. An extensive application of such a method would allow us to break the legally or economically deterministic stadialist assumptions of current scholarship and restore the historical agency of the burakumin in relation to the dynamics of class relations and material practices of the Japanese moral economy.

Yoshihiro Mochizuki, University of Hawai’i
“Alienation in Nakagami Kenji’s The Very First Incident"

This paper examines the sense of alienation depicted in Nakagami Kenji's Ichiban hajime no dekigoto (The Very First Incident). The protagonists in his early works are alienated from other characters, and this work is no exception. Nakagami posed a fundamental question to himself: What is "I"? It had lingered deep inside of his "internal inevitability" (naiteki hitsuzensei) as a writer. To address this question, Nakagami created, in himself and in his works, an enigmatic phenomenon in which the other within differentiates from the self. There is a significant inversion; it is NOT that the phenomenon spontaneously occurred, and he posed the question of the self for the purpose of elucidating it. The Very First Incident shows a glimpse of almost all the elements that the author treats in his later works. In that sense, this work was indeed the 'very first incident' for Nakagami.

Panel 2: “Assimilation and Resistance"
Discussant: Professor Miriam Silverberg, UCLA

Naomi Inagaki, San Francisco State University
“Invisibility of Japanese ‘Comfort Women’”

This paper is about the invisibility of Japanese former "comfort women" who were sent to Japanese military "comfort stations" to provide sexual service to Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War. I examine how this systematic sexual slavery was created and maintained in the historical context, and analyze how these women have been invisible in the postwar Japanese and international society.

Not only the historical women's sexual enslavement in Japan justified the implementation of the "comfort system," but the Euro-American-centric postwar international society also failed to ensure justice for women's human rights. Moreover, the American military's hegemony over Asia generated constant sexual violence against women, which has also contributed to the victims' unbroken silence. The invisibility of Japanese "comfort women" explains to us not only something about the multiple oppressions of women but also the power dynamics of the Asia-Pacific Rim including the United States.

Michael Strausz, University of Washington
“Political Opportunities and Zainichi Korean Social Movements"

This paper addresses two questions: first why did the anti-fingerprinting movement emerge among Koreans in Japan at the particular time that it did? Second, why was the fingerprinting movement so much more successful in attracting mass political participation than other movements that have formed among Koreans in Japan? Explanations based on rational choice theory, with their focus on monitoring, social control, and dependency, have a difficult time addressing either puzzle. Instead, this paper will argue that an examination of political processes, with a focus on the dynamic Japanese political landscape, provides the most robust explanation for social movement mobilization among Koreans in Japan.

Tze May Loo, Cornell University
“Paradise Okinawa: Colonizing the Other Within"

This paper is an attempt to participate in these extant conservations by thinking seriously with and through Marx's categories to interrogate the centrality of capital as a process that produces a specific colonialism in Okinawa. It argues that Okinawa and its history are commodified by the flows of capital from mainland Japan in such a way that this process of commodification is itself a means by which to enact, produce, and make real a new - by which I mean unrecognized - form of colonialism and Othering that often escapes detection. The critical trajectory of this paper begins with an anxiety - a discomfort - around how the memory and continuities of the violences enacted on Okinawa are elided and commodified to exist in and as the sign of Okinawa as Paradise. This paper is an attempt to think through, and about, the ways in which power can be recognized, and then reclaimed, in the everyday struggles of the people whose lives are constituted as The Others Within.

Panel 3: "Teaching the Other"
Discussant: Professor Millie Creighton, University of British Columbia

Christopher Frey, Indiana University, Bloomington
“Ainu Education 1868-1930: Education for Extinction"

The Meiji Restoration was the beginning of large-scale Japanese development and immigration in Hokkaido, which quickly destroyed the political and economic independence of the Ainu. However, the majority of Ainu were not assimilated into the Japanese polity until Tokyo initiated education reforms at the turn of the century. This system of "education for extinction" was modeled after the American policy of "killing the Indian to save the man." Like their American counterparts, the Ainu schools forbade the use of native language and transmission of native culture, which hastened the demise of a distinct Ainu culture. The schools alone could not have achieved this result without the earlier destruction of the Ainu economy, which left the Ainu without a separate economic support system to sustain a distinct culture. Forced with the necessity of competing with the Yamato people for scarce resources and jobs, the majority of Ainu parents sent their children to school and stopped teaching their children the Ainu language. The history of the Ainu illustrates the importance of space for cultural expression and transmission, and support to meet their basic needs as minoritized indigenous groups "modernize" and adapt to globalization.

Christopher Bondy, University of Hawai’i
Topic: Grassroots approach to Buraku Issues at the Junior High level

Teaching of Buraku issues, broadly referred to as Dowa Education, was a part of a national education policy in Japan for over thirty years. Though the Ministry of Education mandates a national education curriculum, considerable leeway was given to schools in their approach to Buraku issues in Dowa education. The funding for Dowa education ended in 2002. This provided an opportunity to examine how the ending of the law affected the approaches taken at schools in two Buraku communities. This paper points to two findings: first, the approaches in the two schools affected the students' awareness of Buraku discrimination and the manner in which they embraced a sense of Burakumin identity; second, a school's approach to Buraku issues reflected the perspective taken by the community as each school treated the issue very differently.

Yuko Okubo, UC Berkeley
"Ethnographic Study of Multicultural Education and the Production of Ethnic 'Others'"

This paper, Ethnographic Study of Multicultural Education and the Production of Ethnic Others, situates various educational programs for ethnic minorities within school, local community, and the wider Japanese society. Such programs differentiate recent immigrant children and refugee children (Chinese and Vietnamese) from long-term minority children (Burakumin and those of Korean descent). I argue in this paper that such a distinction in program and practice results in the construction of ethnic others in Japan, sustaining social reproduction and fueling new and continued forms of social inequality. By employing ethnographic research methods (participant observation, formal and informal interviews) which focus on everyday practices of ethnic differentiation in the school and the neighborhood, this paper attempts to provide a nuanced understanding of the relations between schooling and society that produce ethnic inequalities in a Japanese landscape.

Panel 4: "Voices of the Other"
Discussant: Professor Edward Fowler, UC Irvine

Kyle Ikeda, University of Hawai’i
"Spirit Stuffing, War Memory, and Modernization in Contemporary Okinawan Fiction: Medoruma Shun’s 'Mabui-gumi'"

Okinawan author Medoruma Shun (1960- ), in his Kiyama Shohei and Kawabata Yasunari literary prize winning short story "Mabui gumi" (Spirit Stuffing, 1998), interweaves Okinawan spiritual beliefs, encroaching development investment from mainland Japan, and memories of the Battle of Okinawa to create a complex narrative about an elderly Okinawan village priestess and her attempts to return the spirit of her friend's son to its body. While early commentary on "Mabui gumi" focused on Medoruma's use of metaphor and allegory in the story's treatment of war memory, members of the Kawabata prize selection committee commented more on the work's powerful depiction of Okinawan folk beliefs. In this essay, I argue that "Mabui gumi" creates a traditional Okinawan world by focalizing the narrative through the spiritually attuned village priestess, and by subsequently challenging the tenets of literary realism. Yet, "Mabui gumi" also depicts this traditional Okinawan world struggling to survive in the face of Japanese political, economic, and cultural domination. As the text attests, the world of Okinawan tradition is slowly fading away, while the memories of the Battle of Okinawa remain. By highlighting the tragic consequences that earlier Japanese domination brought Okinawa during the Pacific War, "Mabui gumi" implicitly critiques Okinawa's current process of Japanese modernization and assimilation.

Lee Friederich, U Minnesota
"Reading Outside the Zenshu: When the Masculine Other is a Woman, Little known Stories by Enchi Fumiko"

Enchi Fumiko's little-known short story "Kuuge" ("Flowers of Emptiness") openly reveals social and emotional dilemmas of female-female love through a doctor/patient relationship that in the end challenges masculinist notions of hierarchical relationships, sexuality and care in post-war Japan. While undercurrents of doseiai (same sex love) are very powerfully evoked in other works by Enchi, including her well-known novels Onnazaka and Onnamen, the intimate details of these relationships are cloaked in a shroud of privacy, the thick mantle of the "other" that finally defies our penetration as readers. "Kuuge," on the other hand, not only foregrounds these relationships, but the characters, through their own intense experiences of doseiai, very clearly call into question commonly held conceptions of the doseiai "phenomenon" as it was so vividly defined as a woman's pubescent ascent into "womanhood" (read heterosexuality) by the Japanese public.

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