Title: Re-reading Japanese Literature in the Anthropocene: Escaping from Empire and Moving toward Gender Equality and East Asian Community
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Charles Cabell, Toyo University, Japan
In several notable literary works by postwar writers ENDO Shusaku (1923-1996), KOJIMA Nobuo (1915-2006) and NOSAKA Akiyuki (1930-2015), Japanese male protagonists eager to embrace European and American culture run up against the ideology of White supremacy integral to modernity. As they struggle to gain proximity to White privilege even while being humiliated by White Western men, they imagine themselves belonging to a Japan severed from its Asian roots. The purity of this autochthonous Japanese identity attests to their superiority to other groups similarly excluded from White, male privilege. Just as feminists have highlighted a persistent pattern of gender inequality, the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has stimulated a belated discussion of how anti-Blackness and other forms of racial and ethnic bias are experienced by ‘invisible’ minorities in Japan. In this paper, I argue that, before the nation can respond adequately to the danger of societal collapse posed by the climate and ecological crisis, Japanese must wean themselves from the desire to share in the privilege enjoyed as a client state of the waning American empire. The US has one of the worst ecological footprints per capita on the planet. Confronting the misogyny and racism inherent in postwar male Japanese identity constructed under American domination would facilitate awareness of the folly of continuing to seek happiness through corporate work, profit and consumption; and allow the rediscovery of communal bonds with Chinese, Koreans and Southeast Asians during the contraction of the economy and reduced consumption necessitated in the Anthropocene.
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