Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Visual Cultures and Colonialism: Indigeneity in Local and Transnational Imagery

Another announcement from H-ASIA... This conference sounds interesting, and it is related to our recent class discussion on "what to do with the person" in visual representations and our recent viewing of The Couple in the Cage.

Visual Cultures and Colonialism: Indigeneity in Local and Transnational Imagery

Location: Australia
Call for Papers Date: 2007-12-15
Date Submitted: 2007-10-23
Announcement ID: 159088

A growing body of postcolonial research has established the importance of visual imagery in creating and popularizing ideas about race and cultural difference. Visual representations of Indigenous peoples circulated from local to transnational contexts, participating in colonial networks of global exchange and defining relations of power. One strand of analysis has revealed the complicity of Western scopic regimes with imperialism, tracing the ways that visual cultures express the colonizers’ expansionist gaze. Another seeks to emphasise the role of Indigenous peoples within this relationship, identifying culturally distinct visual traditions and the reformulation of new media such as photography and museum exhibitions. Descendant re-valuation of the colonial archive is inverting colonial exhibitory practices and spectacle, producing new meanings through re-contextualisation of these images. This conference aims to bring together research and thinking on visual cultures and indigeneity that attends to local specificity as well as the global circuits of visual discourse, illuminating both colonial process and attempts at decolonisation.

For more information contact:
Dr. Liz Conor and Dr. Jane Lydon
Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies
Monash University
Clayton VIC 3800

"The Street" A Graduate Student Conference in Visual Studies

(An announcement from H-ASIA...)

Call for papers: "The Street" A Graduate Student Conference in Visual Studies
University of California Irvine, February 29-March 1, 2008

The 2008 UC Irvine Visual Studies Graduate Student Association Conference
February 29 - March 1 2008

In the most literal sense, "the street" denotes a passageway that connects various points in space. However, a quick catalog of the phrase in everyday language reveals that "the street" is a dynamic social and symbolic space, an intersection of public and private interests that are often difficult to isolate. For example, "the street" does not only refer to a thoroughfare but also denotes the place where one lives. This relationship prompts the phrase "my street," which connotes a community affected through ownership, and links its author to a greater metropolis at the same time that it embeds him or her in place as owner and agent. In this sense the street also represents the confrontation of a sense of place and the codes of public policy, thereby pointing to a larger interpenetration of the public and the private that lies at the core of this elusive space. In other instances the phrase transcends space altogether, referring instead to a mode of existence that is independent of site specificity. In this capacity "the street" is used to convey authenticity as in "receiving one's education from the street" or in being "from the street," a usage that usually implies an opposition to artificial or abstract representations of reality. While these examples make clear that "the street" often functions in opposition to a privileged class, it is, in practice, precisely that space which refuses class distinction by forcing interactions among diverse social groups. This interaction is itself as diverse as the space in which it takes place as one may address the street with the apathy of the flâneur or with the fervor of political

We seek papers, projects, or organized panels from a variety of disciplines and approaches all of which address and expand upon the many layers of meaning that constitute this rich object of study. Please submit abstract (250 words) and c.v. to by Dec. 1, 2007 for consideration.

Fields of interest may include:

The 40th anniversary of May '68
Limits of 'the public' in a surveillance society
Public infrastructure and urban planning
Protest on the global street
Globalization and Wall Street
Benjamin's Arcades Project
Advertising and public displays of consumption
Homelessness and nomadism
Situationism and the practice of the Derive
Public performance and the choreography of the street
GPS, G-Maps and virtual negotiations
The simulated street of the Sims and Second Life
Car crashes, accidents and public fatality

For more information contact:
Visual Studies Graduate Student Association
University of California, Irvine

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This one just started out as fun...

Do you like the bubble wrap? Does this picture make you want to pop every bubble? Then check out the New York Times "Laugh Lines" from October 26, 2007 below.

Bubble wrap

When I was looking for the Japanese connection to this posting, I found some interesting web sites.

This picture and the accompanying story on bubble wrap in Japan comes from a site called 3 Yen - News on Japan.

News on Japan - 'Pachi-Pachi'

The site refers to a Japanese game called Pachi-Pachi (the Japanese sound made when popping the bubbles) and provides a link to it. It is the same game as posted on the NY Times web page on 10/26! And the NY Times gives no credit or explanation for it. Is this a problem? Seems プチプチ (Pachi-Pachi) has been on-line since December 20, 2003.

Link to プチプチ

Is this a case of once it's on the web it's fair game? (seems that the NY Times should have provided a source...) On another level, is this another example of weird Japan? Anyway, no matter which site you use, have fun popping...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Globalization in Kobe Fieldtrip Fall 2007

Once again, the "Japan and Globalization: A Cultural Approach" class took a fieldtrip to Kobe in search of the G-word. What did they find? See the pictures and video below and find out...

(Note: This is the first time I am using the Blogger video feature. What do you think?)

Only one student this time entered the globalization photo contest, so our winner is... Nic. His photos appear below. Congratulations and thank you.

See what other students photographed last semester.
Spring 2007 Kobe Fieldtrip

Friday, October 26, 2007

Queer Southeast Asian Short Films

(Courtesy of H-ASIA)

This announcement isn't Japan related nor does it take place in Japan. But it does seem very interesting and an especially challenging arena for visual anthropology. Personally, I would be very interested to see these films.

The event:

Queer Southeast Asian Short Films Program

Thursday, November 8, 2007, 7:00 pm

University of California Irvine Film and Video Center

Reception at 6:30 pm

Curator John Badalu to appear in person for Q&A session

The University of California Irvine Film and Video Center is honored to welcome guest curator John Badalu to present a series of queer Southeast Asian short films. Badalu is both an independent producer working with some of East Asia's most interesting filmmakers as well as the director of the Q! Festival. The Jakarta-based Q! Festival weathered attacks early in its history from fundamentalist religious groups to emerge as the only film festival of its kind in Indonesia with venues in Jakarta, Jogjakarta, and Bali. Today, it is the largest queer festival in Asia. Badalu has served as a juror for the Berlin and Bangkok Film Festivals and as a producer for five independent films. For this FVC program, Badalu has selected short narrative films from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Directed by Victric Thng
2003, Singapore • 4 minutes • Digital Projection

Unseen Bangkok
Directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul
2004, Thailand • 6 minutes • Digital Projection

Life Show
Directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul
2005, Thailand • 10 minutes • Digital Projection

The Matchmaker
Directed by Cinzia Puspita Rini
2006, Indonesia • 10 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Amir Mohammad
2002, Malaysia • 15 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Patrick Lim
2003, Malaysia • 23 minutes • Digital Projection

Last Full Show
Directed by Mark V. Reyes
2004, Philippines • 18 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Royston Tan
2004, Singapore • 12 minutes • Digital Projection

This program is co-presented by the Humanities Center and is organized by Jonathan M. Hall, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and Comparative Literature at UC Irvine.

Lecture in Kyoto: Bouvier's Writings and Photographs on Japan

(Courtesy of H-Japan...)


Thursday, November 1, 2007, 6:00 PM

Giorgio Amitrano will speak on:

Instants voles: Nicolas Bouvier's Writings and Photographs on Japan

Nicolas Bouvier (1929-1998), Swiss writer and photographer, traveled extensively throughout Japan, taking portraits of people, observing and writing. Chroniques japonaises is one of his most celebrated books, and works like L'usage du monde and Le poisson-scorpion turned him into an icon of free, adventurous, risky, small-budget travel. In Bouvier's literary production, images and texts are intimately connected and yet they are independent. There was no theory behind his work: he rather seemed to follow his instinct and sense of adventure. But looking at it from a distance, and with the aid of some important posthumous writings, including a collection of Carnets du Japon, one can detect a greater degree of awareness than expected, as if beyond Bouvier's seemingly spontaneous approach he were developing a method of observation that was both deep and meditative. This lecture will address (or, will attempt an explanation of) why Japan was important for the development of such a method and in what way this country became significant for the building of Bouvier's unique, idiosyncratic humanism.

Giorgio Amitrano is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at the Universite degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale. He is the author of The New Japanese Novel: Popular Culture and Literary Tradition in the Works of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana (Kyoto: ISEAS, 1996), Yama no oto: kowareyuku kazoku (Tokyo: Misuzu shobo, 2007), and Il mondo di Banana Yoshimoto (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007). Amitrano has also edited the Italian edition of Kawabata's collected works, and has translated into Italian works by Kawabata Yasunari, Nakajima Atsushi, Kajii Motojiro, Miyazawa Kenji, Inoue Yasushi, Murakami Haruki, and Yoshimoto Banana.

For more information, contact:

Italian School of East Asian Studies (ISEAS)
Phone: 075-751-8132
Fax: 075-751-8221

Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO)
Phone: 075-761-3946

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Why [do] Japanese [people] look subdued?"

Shigekatsu Yamauchi, president of the International Communication Institute and a Cornell University trained Japanese language teacher, writes a column that appears in the Daily Yomiuri. His column usually focuses on the differences between the Japanese and English languages and often concludes that Japanese is easier and more logical and by extension superior and unique. I usually get a kick out of reading his blatant nihinjinron tainted text. In today's column he explains why the Japanese are more restrained and refined in their use of gesture, especially in comparison to English speakers. Please check out his column and then return for my comments.

Link to Japanese in depth / Why Japanese look subdued?
By Shigekatsu Yamauchi, Special to The Daily Yomiuri (Oct. 23, 2007)

Yamauchi's opinions and use of "linguistics" seems flawed on many levels. He justifies his opinion that English speakers use gestures and facial expressions more than the Japanese (this in itself is a huge and questionable generalization) by comparing the speeches of Japanese prime ministers (except for Koizumi - why the exception?) and American presidents. This is a poor source of evidence in that such political speeches are not examples of natural language use. Political speeches are highly choreographed, most especially the use of gestures. I would also question using the current American president as a typical English speaker... Observations of natural language use would be much more revealing than scripted rhetorical devices.

Just this morning on my 15 minute train ride to work I was able to observe the rich use of gesture and facial expressions by a wide variety of Japanese people. I found them to be anything but subdued. Young school children were chatting, laughing and gesturing away. The old woman sitting next to them indicated her discomfort and disgust of the antics of the students with her tense, upright posture and foul facial expressions. Two middle aged women sat speaking, covering their mouths when laughing, waving their hand in negation and made a variety of illustrative, emblematic and cohesive gestures. A salaryman standing by the door was talking on his cell phone, speaking in female register, bowing and making polite facial expressions (obviously he was speaking with a customer or superior). Two college youths who seemed to be studying sometimes drew kanji characters in the air or on their hands. I could go on and on with these real life examples of gesture use in Japan.

Yamauchi resorts to his often used and tired example of the Japanese being able to translate "I am a cat" in 2,000 different ways. He writes, "Even with changes in intonation, the English speaker cannot, by use of language alone, convey with these three words what the various Japanese equivalents can convey." Three words? It is four words, right? And why does it matter the number of words or morphemes needed to express the same phrase? Why the emphasis on one-to-one correspondences? This is indeed an odd comparison for a linguist to make. And to claim that because the same phrase cannot be uttered in English that conveys the same emotional meaning as it does in the Japanese version, more gestures and facial expressions are needed, again odd and extremely questionable.

Gesture and speech are parts of the same communication system. While the meanings of gestures are culture specific and not universal, the fact that humans use gesture is a universal. Not all cultures use gesture in the same way. Yamauchi's subdued facial expression is indeed a gesture itself rather than an example of a lack of gesture. There are occasions when the subdued face is appropriate and expected in Japanese communication. Gesture and facial expression are hardly missing or secondary in Japan. And, at least where I work, I see more subdued expressions on the faces of foreign teachers than on our Japanese students.

Borrowed photo credits:

Junichiro Koizumi photo comes from Time magazine on-line,9171,1187224,00.html?ref=Erotik19...?ref=SevSevil.Com

George W. Bush photo comes from Out in Hollywood

Yasuo Fukuda photo comes from The Age

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weird Japan (?) in the News

"Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place"

Photo by Torin Boyd/Polaris, for The New York Times

Photo caption: Though street crime is relatively low in Japan, quirky camouflage designs like this vending-machine dress are being offered to an increasingly anxious public to hide from would-be assailants.

My Body/Comm student brought this article to my attention as an example of "outlandish Japanese nonverbal communication." We have been studying clothing and fashion in Japan with the question, "What messages do people send through their clothing?" According to my student: "I'm a Coke machine!"

Is this story another example of "the weird things they do in Japan?" How does this story contribute to the image of contemporary Japanese culture?

Read more in the New York Times website. Story by Martin Fackler (October 20, 2007)

Be sure to check out the slide show that accompanies the story for more pictures.

Special thanks to Jonah and his mother for this story.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Documentary: "Yasukuni"

A new documentary film by Li Ying about Yasukuni Shrine has been shown at the Pusan International Film Festival. Japan's war dead from 1868 to the present are enshrined at Yasukuni. This includes so-called war criminals from World War II. Yasukuni is seen as a hotbed for right-wing nationalist politics. Japanese politicians and government officials (including former prime ministers) sometimes visit the shrine which angers and offends many people in Japan and abroad.

These pictures were taken at Yasukuni in the autumn of 2005. Right-wing "black trucks" meet and gather before being dispatched to various areas of Tokyo to blast propaganda and nationalistic music at incredibly loud volumes.

Click on the link below for some background information on Yasukuni Shrine, Enshrinement Politics: War Dead and War Criminals at Yasukuni Shrine by Akiko Takenaka which recently appeared in Japan Focus.

Link to Enshrinement Politics

There is most certainly a military feel to Yasukuni. Welcoming guests from the main entrance is a statue of Omura Masujiro, who was the Vice Minister for Military Affairs after the Meiji Restoration and widely seen as the creator of the Imperial Japanese Army.

There is a museum, Yushukan, attached to the shrine that has an interesting and biased view of history that seems to justify Japanese colonization and imperialism. I certainly recommend a visit to Yasukuni and the museum as an exercise in visual anthropology to see the power of photography in terms of imposing a certain interpretation of reality.

The new film promises to be interesting and controversial. It is scheduled to begin limited showings in Japan early next year. For more information on the film, check out the link below.

Link to review on the Hollywood Reporter website

The film has generated some discussion on Japan Today.

Link to discussion on Japan Today

"Shichi-go-san" is also celebrated at Yasukuni Shrine. This is an important Shinto life cycle ritual for Japanese children where thanks and prayers are offered for children's health and happiness.

After the ritual, a little girl dressed in kimono plays with a canon. I really wonder why parents would choose Yasukuni for shichi-go-san... Anyway, I am looking forward to the film.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival

(another forwarded message form the EASIANTH listserv)

The next Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival will take place April 30 - May 4, 2008.

The festival promotes documentary cinema with a special emphasize on new films, videos or interactive media (published after 1/1/2005) dealing with socio-cultural processes in a wide sense of the term.

The festival is open to all filmmakers, but especially those coming from anthropology, sociology, folklore and neighbouring disciplines. It provides a great opportunity for international co-operation in Visual Anthropology and documentary filmmaking.

The student film competition is one of the central events of the festival.

Submission Deadline: 14 January 2008

For more information (including films of previous winners), see their web page:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Beauty in Contemporary Japan: Body/Comm "Visual Anthropology" Workshop Fall 2007

Once again this semester in "The Body and Communication in Japan" class (Body/Comm), we did a workshop where students made posters illustrating beauty in contemporary Japan.

The first group created a "Frankenfine," the accumulation and attainment of idealized body parts based on mathematical equations. Female parts were used in the construction of the male Frankenfine...

This group focused on the importance of big eyes, make-up, popular fingernail styles (which would seem to make daily life activities using the hands and fingers impossible), dyed hair, clothing styles and correct body proportions.

Certain foods, normal hair styles and large bodies だめ! Cool clothing, wild hair styles and proper body proportions OK!

Cute eyes, big eyes, western eyes and eye make-up...

This group focused on female beauty, especially clothing styles, accessories and ideal body parts. Young women have various cute, cool and rebel fashion styles.

The selling points for beauty in Japan: western influence (half western, half Japanese models are very popular these days), big eyes, being cute and innocent, no body hair and lots of make-up.

This poster illustrates appropriate Japanese beauty styles for men and women especially focusing on clothing and hair. Manga characters appeared on their poster as well. Does idealized beauty influence manga or vice versa?

Another successful, fun and educational Body/Comm workshop experience.

You can compare the posters from this semester with those of last semester by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Japan Center for Asian Historic Records

JACAR is a digital database of Japan's historical records testifying to its pre-war relations with the Asian countries. It is an ongoing project archiving official documents of the Cabinet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Army and Navy, dating from the Meiji era through 1945. In an effort to share the facts of history, images of the original documents are made public through this site on an unprecedented scale.

The site is available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. You can also access the National Archives of Japan Digital Gallery and see visual materials such as maps, drawings, scrolls, photographs, etc.

Link to JACAR

Saturday, October 6, 2007

HIV in Japan Update

As HIV/AIDS rates continue to rise in Japan, the government continues to fight patients in court rather than taking responsibility and looking for solutions. This posting is an update from the August 21, 2007 posting, HIV/AIDS and Deaf People in Japan.

The government and drugmakers have reached a settlement with a hemophilia patient who was prescribed unheated blood products that infected him with HIV, more than six years after he was told he had the virus, it has been learned.

Read more in the Daily Yomiuri article.
Link to Govt, drugmakers reach settlement with HIV patient

Friday, October 5, 2007

Anthropology and War: Don't Let Them Recruit You!

This is not visual anthropology or Japan related per se, rather it is another disturbing terror-related post illustrating anthropology's return to its colonization-related roots. The following New York Times article from October, 5, 2007 is being widely distributed in anthropological circles.

Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones

In an experimental Pentagon program, a Human Terrain Team pairs anthropologists and other social scientists with American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read more:

I have lectured many times how anthropology has evolved and developed from its colonial roots. I admit that I have a very idealistic understanding about this discipline and its potential for humanity. Anthropology should be used to prevent wars, not make them more effective through understandings of the enemy and/or management of occupied peoples. Please don't emulate such militaristic "research" methods. Don't let the military appropriate anthropology as part of their ill conceived war on terror.

It might be a good idea for some to review the American Anthropological Association's Code of Ethics...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Information for Foreign Nationals Entering Japan

I received an e-mail from my colleague with the following information. A new example of "internationalization in accordance with the rules." If you are coming to Japan, check it out.

New Biometrics Requirements for Foreigners Entering Japan

As of November 23, 2007, all foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exemption of certain categories listed below, will be required to provide fingerprints and a facial photograph at the port of entry. This requirement does not replace any existing visa or passport requirements. Foreign nationals that are exempt from this new requirement include special permanent residents, persons under 16 years of age, holders of diplomatic or official visas, and persons invited by the head of a national administrative organization. Please note that permanent residents will also be expected to submit to this new requirement.

The Immigration Bureau of the Ministry of Justice posted an explanatory video on the new procedures on June 14, 2007.

Link to "Landing Examination Procedures for Japan are Changing!"

The video is on the webpage for the Japanese Government Internet Television [Copyright Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan. All Rights Reserved. 〒100-8968 東京都千代田区永田町1-6-1 TEL.03-5253-2111(代表) 内閣府大臣官房政府広報室]. There seems to be many different types of videos in English (on "Channel 61" geared towards foreigners and tourists) and Japanese (on a variety of subjects including politics, disaster instructions, public service commercials, etc.).

As per today's class on the various styles of documentary film, I'd say "Landing Examination Procedures for Japan are Changing!" (produced by the Japanese Ministry of Justice) falls in the category of expository, with the intention of informing and instructing viewers. The film is authoritative and "leaves little room for misinterpretation." It is also, in my humble opinion, most definitely propaganda. Japan must change its procedures to protect both its citizens and visitors against terrorism, especially in response to terrorist acts between 2001 and 2005. Changes take place November, 2007. Now that's being proactive. And such an original idea as well... These kind of regulations work wonderfully in other countries that practice them... Let's hear another cheer for the nation-state and deny globalization once again. OK, off the (sarcastic) soapbox - すみません.

It might be interesting for visual anthropologists to look into the Japanese Government Internet Television site a little more to see what other gems are there. Please do so and keep me posted.

Special thanks to P.S. for the heads-up on this one.

UPDATE: (Several hours later and after much thought) Back on the soapbox and no apologies this time... These new regulations are simply ridiculous and blatantly discriminatory. Let me give you a real life ethnographic example, someone I am very familiar with: Mr. S. has lived in Japan for 10 years. He has a permanent residence visa. He owns a house in Japan and has a mortgage with a Japanese bank. He works as a professor for a well-known university. His entire life is in Japan. For every one of the previous things mentioned, getting a permanent residence visa, buying a house, getting a mortgage, getting a job, he has faced "special treatment" because he was a foreigner. Most people would consider such special treatment as discrimination plain and simple. Mr. S. has done the Japanese thing throughout these events - he accepted them, persevered and uttered the appropriate "well that's the way things are and it can't be helped..." Mr. S. lives in Japan. One of the greatest pleasures he has is returning home to Japan after family-related or otherwise required trips to the country he has left behind. Mr. S. has virtually given up everything from his former country to the point where it would be impossible to return to any sort of normal life there. He is a refugee (albeit a willing one) of globalization. And now when he returns "home" from trips abroad he will be treated as a possible criminal and a possible terrorist because he is not officially Japanese. Mr. S. has a passport and a permanent residence visa. He has a re-entry permit and a foreign residence registration card. He is listed as a citizen in the city where he lives. He pays local and national taxes (without the right to vote - another "well that's the way things are and it can't be helped..."). Mr. S. is enrolled in the national insurance program (and has no insurance in his country of origin) and pays into the national pension scheme (which is more than some Japanese politicians, including the new prime minister, have done; Prime Minister Fukuda resigned as chief cabinet secretary in 2004 after it was revealed that he "missed" some of his pension payments - oh how soon they forget...). He has a name stamp registered at his local city hall which has been used on numerous occasions on numerous Japanese legal documents. Surely Japan must realize Mr. S. is not a criminal or a terrorist. Hasn't Mr. S. jumped through enough hoops already? Why must he give up more personal freedoms? Do you feel sorry for Mr. S.? Don't - for he is only one man. But there are thousands and thousands more like him in Japan. How can this happen? A sign of the times? A poor excuse, as it has been these kinds of policies that has brought on these "times." So what are we gonna do about it? Can we do anything? Can we afford to do anything without fear of repercussion? Mr. S. is tired and needs to sleep...

UPDATE #2: (In case you can't get enough of this...) This issue is taken up in today's (10/4/07) Japan Today. There's a short news story and then the usual mix of reader comments.

Link to
Japan to fingerprint, photograph foreigners from Nov 20