Imagining the Lost Generation: Representations of precarity in Japanese Popular Culture
Call for Papers Date:
The global increase in casualisation and the accompanying rise of a disenfranchised contingent labor force in developed nations has led to a degree of social instability whose psychological repercussions have triggered an existential crisis that has been contextualised by the term precarity. Even though the term has a long history in the context of the European antiglobalisation movement, recent usage in the Japanese context suggest a neologism that links workers’ ‘precarious’ existence with the notion of a ‘proletariat,’ to yield the connotation of an ideational ‘precariat’ class. Sustained periods of cultural decline known as ‘lost decades’ are relatively common the world over, yet Japan’s recent somber recognition of ushinawareta nijû nen or ‘two lost decades’ have impelled one of the world’s formerly most productive economies to confront the so-called kakusa shakai (gap-widening society) phenomenon. In a nation riddled by successive waves of recession since the mid-nineties, the socio-cultural repercussions of chronic economic downturn have resulted in a wide variety of voiceless social minorities, such as NEET, freeter, and hikikomori.
The perception of angst experienced by Japan’s middle class led to the re-emergence of alternative social discourses such as the 1920s-type proletarian literary discourse in Kobayashi Takishi’s Kanikōsen (The Crab Canning Ship, 1923). This boom was preceded by the appearance of a new generation of authors of popular culture, who emerged out of the aftermath of Japan’s period of high economic growth in the early nineties to find a socio-political landscape devoid of job opportunities and support for those disadvantaged by the global financial crisis. Before long this generation was to translate their own dilemmas into works of literature, manga, anime or film. While in literature, this trend has been explicitly described as atrashii puroretaria bungaku (new proletarian literature), neet bungaku and hikikomori bungaku, representations of social decline are also present in other pop cultural genres. This research project proposes ‘texts of precarity’ as an umbrella term for the multitude of financial as well as mental ramifications expressed by the contemporary sense of social angst.
In the light of the continuing contemporary deceleration of Japan in the wake of the Fukushima incident, this research project looks specifically at the pop-cultural and socio-political ramification as expressed through representations of precarity. To what extent can we talk about the emergence of a new literary paradigm of precarity in the world of Japanese popular culture? Can we postulate that contemporary texts offer alternatives to capitalism or rather take a moralist stance in regards to cultural critique? How much potential for social criticism do the texts contain? How do authors maneuver the tension between criticism and the commercial exploitation of social decline?
Following a successful panel on this topic at the joint AAS-ICAS conference in Honolulu, Hawaii held from March 31 to April 3, 2011, the editors are inviting scholarly contributions on literary and pop cultural representations of precarity in Japan.
For submission please submit a brief abstract (250 words); a short biographical statement, listing your previous publications, until the 20 August.
German Institute for Japanese Studies
University of Sydney
phone: +61 2 862 78250
fax: +61 2 8627 8284
Send comments and questions to H-Net
Webstaff. H-Net reproduces announcements that have been submitted to us as a
free service to the academic community. If you are interested in an announcement
listed here, please contact the organizers or patrons directly. Though we strive
to provide accurate information, H-Net cannot accept responsibility for the text of
announcements appearing in this service. (Administration)