Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Visual Anthropology of Racism in Japan

Cover of Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu borrowed from Arudou Debito's article in Japan Focus.

If you don't already subscribe to Japan Focus or haven't seen its latest articles, do check it out. Of particular interest is an article about a recent Japanese publication called Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu (The Underground Files of Gaijin Crime) which has what only can be described as a negatively biased view of foreigners in Japan.

Link to Gaijin Hanzai Magazine and Hate Speech in Japan: The newfound power of Japan's international residents.
By Arudou Debito, in Japan Focus. http://japanfocus.org/products/details/2386

Arudou describes and discusses the problematic publication and provides several useful links, including one where scanned images of Gaijin Hanzai can be viewed. The depiction of foreigners in Japan as evil and dangerous has created quite a stir and has generated a lot of buzz in blogs and other more conventional media. In terms of visual anthropology, Arudou describes the biased use of photos and manga illustrations: "Photos that show mixed-nationality scenes have the Japanese faces blurred out. The gaijin faces, however, are mostly left intact, regardless of privacy concerns. When asked about this..., the editor claimed it necessary for 'the illustrative power of the image,' so readers could 'recognize [the criminal] as foreign.'"

Also of visual interest is Arudou's belief that the Japan National Police Agency, or some branch of it, is behind the publication of Gaijin Hanzai because of the content and methodology of photography.

This article and the issues it raises are interesting and quite disturbing. It also provides a good illustration of the power of imagery and representation.

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