Our speaker for the April meeting of the Kyoto Asian Studies Group is Erika Alpert who will present "Hellooooooo Kitty!: Learning to Interact with the Opposite Sex in Modern Japan"(see abstract below).
My research concerns marriage in modern Japan. Specifically, I study the trends towards later marriage—or for some, not marrying at all—that have led towards the present "konkatsu boom," wherein finding a spouse is treated like finding a job: an activity that requires preparation, work, and active hunting. Current pop sociological wisdom places the blame for this shift on the breakdown of the "lifetime employment system" that once not only supported Japanese middle-class existence, but also served as a means for introducing men who would inhabit the workplace permanently to young women on a temporary transit through it as office ladies. Women can be more than just office ladies now; men's permanent employment is no longer guaranteed.
I can't help but question this wisdom, however, every time I walk past a Japanese lingerie store in winter and note the many pairs of fluffy chenille panties blazoned with Hello Kitty—how can anyone feel conjugally inclined in the face of Kitty-chan's face? An explanation for the change in marriage practices must of course take into account large-scale social processes such as economics, but also the real choices, successes, and failures that occur during individual person-to-person interaction between men and women. My research with matchmakers, begun in 2009, suggests that in addition to the role of Japan's changing economic circumstances and organization of labor, Japanese men and women are no longer interacting in a way that ends in marriage—or in some cases, not interacting at all. In this talk, I will discuss the process of "jibun migaki" (self-polishing) that men and women using partner-introduction services like matchmakers undergo, and the efforts of matchmakers both to teach their clients what they regard as basic social and interactional skills for success with the partners they meet.
Erika Alpert is a Doctoral Candidate in Linguistic Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan and is currently a Research Student at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University
The lecture will be from 18:30-20:30 on Monday, April 19th in Room 213 of the Fusokan(???)of Doshisha University Imadegawa campus (see below for access info).
Sponsored by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies.
For information on access see:
Please refrain from bringing any food or drinks into the meeting room.
Contact: Hillary Pedersen, University of Kansas/Kyoto University
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