“Power and Identity”: A Cross-Disciplinary Conference

I am happy to announce that the Graduate Program on Global Society, the University of Tokyo, holds its first international conference on the theme of “Power and Identity” in January, 2017. My friend from the program, Jun Nohara and I organize the conference. Below is the conference’s call for papers information. For more details, please visit our webpage in the following link: gspconference2017.

International Conference

“Power and Identity”

The Graduate Program on Global Society (GSP), the University of Tokyo

 Abstract Submission Deadline: September 30, 2016

Abstract Submission: gspconference2017@gmail.com

Monday 9 January, 2017

The Graduate Program on Global Society (GSP), the University of Tokyo, hosts an international conference to explore various issues of power and identity from interdisciplinary perspectives. In today’s globalized world, it is increasingly urgent to examine the way in which power and identity are interrelated with each other, not only politically and economically, but also culturally and ideologically. Both personal and national identities have become more and more unsettled, inscrutable, and even questionable. And yet certain power continues to operate in various dimensions of our life, shaping, disturbing, and refashioning our identities. In the field of international politics, in our mundane social life, and on the discursive level, even in the realm of fiction, the interaction between power and identity continuously serves as a crucial determinant of boundaries, alliances, communication manners, and styles of discourse.

How can individuals approach issues of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, language, religion and fashion in terms of social and political norms? What are the ways in which regional and global matters, such as security and threat, peace and war, sovereignty or memory, contribute to or are affected by power and identity? Can commerce and media provide us with any solution to these issues? How does literature address the issues of power and identity?

The GSP conference “Power and Identity” calls for papers, which investigate into and elucidate any aspect of the complicated interrelation between power and identity. Possible themes are listed below, but papers are not limited to them:

Possible Themes:
Globalization and Identity
Cultural Interactions and Power
Identity and Power in International Relations
Peace and Identity
Security and Power
State, Power, and National Identity
Memory and Identity
Immigration, Identity, and State Control
Religion, State, and Power
Religion, Identity, and Conflicts
Gender, Identity, and State Power
Women, Identity, and Literature
Rhetoric and Power
Language, Identity, and Power
Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality
Fashion and Identity
Media and Power
Power and City in Literature
Memory, Identity, and Power in Literature
Power and Identity in Postcolonial Literature
Contemporary Society, Power Relations, and Literature

Plenary Lectures
Professor Daisaku HIGASHI, Sophia University, Japan
Professor Crispin Bates, Edinburgh University, Scotland


Good News Vol. 3 :)

Since September, I have been waiting for the e-mail notifying me regarding the upcoming annual meeting of the Comparative Literature Association (ACLA). Finally, I received the good news this morning and learned that my paper was accepted for an oral presentation 🙂 You can read my abstract below and feel free to comment on it 😉

The Notion of Maternity during the Lost Decade of Japan through Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

In the wake of the economic downturn of Japan in the 1990s, the notion of maternity, putatively separated from the capitalist production, was denounced as a constituent of self-indulgence and consumer culture. The home (maternal domain), once “constituted as the center not only of consumption but also of prudent thrift” owing to household saving rates and purchase of recommended consumer durables lost its paradigmatic status (Yoda, 2000, p.873). By contrast, the discourse of paternalism, associated with respect for hard-working fathers and capitalist economic expansion, became a popular theme in Japanese media (Yoda, 2000).

Accordingly, this paper examines the ways in which Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle witnesses the altering status of the maternity in view of economic destabilization during the lost decade of Japan. I argue that Noboru Wataya, due to his remarks on gender roles and mysterious power over women, is illustrative of the view linking maternity with excessive consumption. Conversely, unemployed Toru Okada, who takes care of house chores while his wife works at a magazine, epitomizes the individual whose life is under change with the new economic conditions. Despite his circumstances, Okada disagrees with Wataya’s views and tries to emancipate his wife from Wataya’s fetters. In this way, Murakami, instead of the failed past system, seems to point towards an uncertain future for the improvement of economic and social issues prevalent at the time.

Yoda, T. (2000). The Rise and Fall of Maternal Society: Gender, Labor and Capital in Contemporary Japan. South Atlantic Quarterly. 99(4), 865.

Good News Vol.2 :)

Good News Vol.2 🙂

It has been only couple of days since I shared the news with you regarding the offer of publication I received. Today, this great news is followed by yet another one. I passed level N3 (intermediate) in Japanese proficiency exam. It is just intermediate level, but I still feel like it is a great achievement for me as Japanese is the most challenging language I have ever studied and it has mostly been through self-study. I am so happy that I could not help sharing it with you! 🙂 Now, I am really motivated to progress with this language further. N2, bring it on! 😛

Review of Banana Yoshimoto’s Amrita

Another Contemporary Japanese Literary Piece: Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto


Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto 
Buy the Book


After my last review on a Japanese classic, today I switch my gear and want to write about the novel titled Amrita. This novel is written by one of the well-known Japanese contemporary writers, Banana Yoshimoto. Many Japanese literature enthusiasts perhaps know Yoshimoto through her famous short novel, Kitchen. Although Amrita is among Yoshimoto’s less-known works, she received the 5th Murasaki Shikibu prize for literature with this work. If you go to a bookstore and check the shelf where Yoshimoto’s works are lined, Amrita stands out because it is the most voluminous work she has ever written. Except for Amrita, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Yoshimoto usually writes very short pieces. It is not really significant, but still an interesting point as I could not help wondering why she chose to write a lengthy work like Amrita after all her short novels 🙂  Of course, after reading the novel from beginning to the end, I tried to come up with an answer. However, I will not share it here. I am leaving the judgement to you and your experience with her works 🙂

Despite its length, Amrita is a novel about the never-ending cycle of life including major events as well as very trivial things that it encompasses. The theme is blended with the elements of magical realism through the protagonist’s memory loss and some supernatural occurrences. And for those readers, who got familiar with the works of Haruki Murakami first, elements of magical realism would certainly remind them of Murakami whose characters are also swayed from one place to another by life. However, the similarity between them does not go beyond that. Continue reading

A Review of Natsume Soseki’s Botchan

Botchan by Natsume Sosekibotchan
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book


Natsume Soseki’s Botchan was among the set of novels that I read during the last semester. I have already written about two of the novels from that time, now it is Botchan’s turn 🙂 Undoubtedly, any literature enthusiast, familiar with Japanese history and literature, remembers terms such as Westernization and Meiji restoration as soon as they hear the name of the Japanese writer, Natsume Soseki. The issue of Westernization is usually problematized in Soseki’s works either as in the unfortunate and heartbreaking story, Kokoro or humorous and entertaining one such as Botchan.

In this review, however, I want to dwell on the character of Botchan rather than the West and East problem, already discussed in detail by many scholars and reviewers. Rather than a critical analysis, I want to focus on Botchan the character himself because the way Soseki portrays him establishes this work as a universal and enjoyable work for many readers with different cultural backgrounds. Continue reading

Strange Weather in Tokyo Review

strange weatherStrange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Published by Portobello Books

Format: Paperback

Source: Publisher

This very short novel is the very first literary writing I have read from Hiromi Kawakami. Therefore, I am not entirely familiar with her style, but I could not help reading this very short piece like a bookworm whenever little time I had, which means I read it mostly on the trains while commuting to the university. Okay, let’s get down to the story!

The entire story revolves around two characters, Tsukiko and Sensei. As soon as I saw the name, sensei, it immediately reminded me of Soseki’s Kokoro. However, unlike Soseki’s story, Kawakami tells a romantic story of two lonely people. Tsukiko meets Sensei so many years after her graduation one day at a bar and then the story begins… First, she cannot recognize her teacher at all. It is Sensei, who first approaches her to talk. After their initial talk, it becomes a habit of theirs to drink together. Whenever they meet by chance at their usual bar, they drink and eat together. Like in any romance, they gradually start to have feelings for one another… Continue reading

Takeshi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat

The Guest Cat Review

the guest cattThe Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
Published by Picador
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book

It has been awfully long time since I last managed to write in this blog. Although I was able to finish quite a number of books within the last two months thanks to my amazingly long commuting hours to go to the university, somehow I could not write about any of them. It is not because I was extremely busy. I was as busy as I had been before. Yet, with the new semester starting in April, the amount of miscellaneous things I had to do made me feel exhausted at the end of the day and I found myself a bit reluctant to do any sort of writing so long as I did not have to. And on top of petty stuff I had to take care of, there was the nicest sort of distraction at the beginning of May, that is, Golden Week. Golden Week is one of these rare holidays you can have in Japan. Now wanting to miss the chance, I went to Okinawa, yes that famous beautiful tropical island. After spending a week in Okinawa, it was not that easy to go back to reality as you might imagine 🙂

Talking about going back to reality, which can be also regarded as some sort of change of pace and re-adjusting the self to the former conditions, today I want to introduce a less known Japanese poet and writer called Takashi Hiraide. I particularly chose this writer because Hiraide’s novel titled The Guest Cat is also about change or transition the Japanese went through triggered by the new economic conditions while the bubble economy was coming to an end in 1990s. When I came across Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat in Maruzen (a well-known bookstore in Japan) back in early April, in all honesty I first thought it must be one of the cliché cat-craze products. Still intrigued by the cat figure with sparkling green eyes on the cover, I found myself reaching out to the shelf. As soon as I managed to take my eyes off the bewitching eyes, I learned, to my surprise, novel became a The New York Times bestseller. In addition to its fame abroad, I also figured that Takashi Hirade won the Kiyama Shohei Literary award with this very short novel in Japan, so I decided to give it a try and bought the book.  Continue reading