“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

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

As the winter vacation is coming to an end, I am leaving three hectic months behind with a need for some rest. Busy schedule that started with the job hunting process and full of lots of paperwork and bureaucracy has ended on the most beautiful note with this paper coming into existence despite all the odds against it! The moment I saw my laptop showered with coffee at Starbucks today, I had a little bit of a heart attack. However, it is safely here! 🙂  It still has a way to go, and I need to improve it, but it will help me go through the upcoming conference 🙂

In “The Unfinished Cartography: Murakami Haruki and the Postmodern Cognitive Map,” Chiyoko Kawakami untangles the gap between Murakami and the postwar junbungaku not so much in view of Murakami’s reluctance to adopt a critical stance on the Japanese social scene. Alternately, she deciphers the long-debated polarity in respect of non-representational form of power being portrayed in Murakami’s works in contrast to “the discursive practice of social struggle” prevailing in postwar junbungaku: “Murakami depicts the problematic and incompletely conceptualized relationships between the individual and society in the radically changing social climates of postmodern Japan, where “authority” has ceased to present itself as a unified ideological entity” (310).

Following Kawakami’s viewpoint, I argue that Jean Baudrillard’s theory of consumerism allows for a thorough understanding of manifestation of non-representational power structure in The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. His theory is firmly engrained in his analysis of power as a non-representational entity regulating the relationship between the individual and society by way of dissemination and exhaustion of concepts such as family, leisure and so on. Baudrillard, in other words, scrutinizes a concept such as family, very often confined to the peripheries of home and/or private space, as a consumer object through which various values and standards are compromised in view of the changing political economy. Among the most renowned values and standards being conferred under the aegis of family one can indubitably find the notion of maternity.

Correspondingly, this paper examines the ways in which 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 in connection with Baudrillard’s theory of consumerism. By alluding to the altering status of the notion of maternity, I argue that the protagonist’s attempt to emancipate his wife from his brother-in-law Noboru Wataya’s fetters is symptomatic of his nonconformity to the hegemonic masculine identity and his individual struggle. Following the years marked by economic instability, 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 associated both with consumption and frugality owing to household saving rates and purchase of recommended consumer durables, lost its paradigmatic status. By contrast, a discourse associated with respect for hard-working fathers and capitalist economic expansion gained popularity in the 1990s, as Tomiko Yoda explains in “The Rise and Fall of Maternal Society: Gender, Labor, and Capital in Contemporary Japan.” 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

The Strange Library

 The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami / Review

strange library 1

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami 
Publisher: Harvill Secker 
Publishing Date: December 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 88
Source: Publisher
Buy the book

Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library with a child protagonist being lured into a mysterious library and a sheep man serving freshly prepared doughnuts – perhaps the sheep man from A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance – immediately reminds his readers of the Brothers Grimm’s famous fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. Yet, in Murakami’s story, it is not the doughnuts that will fatten up the child protagonist and turn him into a delicious meal for the strange old man working in the library. Rather, the knowledge being attained from the books is to make a mouth-watering meal out of his brains.
The story actually begins with the protagonist going to the library to return some books and on the way to the library he recognizes a sudden desire to read about Ottoman tax collection system. Yet, the volumes on Ottoman tax collection cannot be taken out of the library and for this reason he is led to a reading room in which he is locked.

As a matter of fact, from the very moment the protagonist enters the library he feels something strange: “the library was hushed more than usual” and “my new leather shoes clacked against the gray linoleum. Their hard, dry sound was unlike my normal footsteps” (1). Moreover, despite seeing the grotesque face of the old man in the library, he cannot bring himself to leave the library because he is not “… very good at giving anyone a clear no” (10).

After the door is locked on him, the protagonist starts his descent towards the very bottom of the library: “It was a very long staircase. Long enough, it seemed, to reach Brazil” (17). This is the very turning point in this short Strange library 2novel: either a world that is similar to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel will welcome the child protagonist when the descent comes to an end. Unfortunately enough, the latter is proven to be the case as he ends up in a jail cell where he compulsorily starts his reading about the Ottoman tax collection.

Whether the protagonist manages to escape this maze-like library, you can only find out upon reading the novel. However, by choosing a storyline more similar to the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel rather than Carroll’s Alice, Murakami seems to be critical of the information and the way it is consumed. Today, information, which has been transformed into a consumer object, in the schools and libraries is carefully categorised and presented. In this way, it has long become a handy tool for the education system to produce not only individuals in line with our consumer societies but also a system working towards specialised knowledge. In this nightmare-like visit to the library, Murakami in his usual funny and witty way looks like telling us something about this matter through his child protagonist.

Happy News about an Upcoming Conference

A week ago, I sent an abstract for the 5th Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship ( http://iafor.org/iafor/conferences/librasia2015/ ) and today, I got the happy news. My topic was accepted for an oral presentation. This will be my first conference after a long while. The conference will be held next year April in Osaka.

I will present a paper on Murakami Haruki’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The theme of the conference is ‘Power’ and I will try to discuss this novel by referring to Jean Baudrillard’s The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. I particularly chose Baudrillard to argue the conference theme in relation to consumerist and managed societies and their influence on the self. While doing so, I’m also planning to put the novel in its own historical context, roughly 1970s and early 1980s.

Is there any other soul going to this conference? I’m already so excited and looking forward to giving my speech 🙂