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Making Gender In The Context Of Symbolic Misery: Binary Subjectivities And The Nationalized Self

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The World of Gender – Final Paper

Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies

Making Gender in the Context of Symbolic Misery:

Binary Subjectivities and the Nationalized Self

Rafael Munia

Tokyo – 2013 秋

Introduction

The present paper aims to explain how through a certain discourse of Japaneseness and national-identity, gender has been produced in Japan in a way that always refer to nationality as an explanation for gendered thinking and practices. It is argued along the paper that in the context of Symbolic Misery in which very few different and contrasting symbols are made available for people to build their own subjectivities, the rigidity of Japanese ‘identity’ becomes harder to escape, and together with such ideas comes very determined ideas of gender binaries that can be observed throughout the society at large, from the uniforms to the bottle of drinks for men and for women. Resulting from this rigid discourse of Japaneseness comes the discursive practice of defining oneself through the label of ‘Japanese’ even in the matters of gender, as it can be seem through some of the narrative collected. This constant presence of the term Japanese in discourses of gender is important because it uses the collective identity as a subterfuge for maintaining and crystallizing gender notions, making it even harder to be deconstructed. Thus, the paper concludes, by nationalizing gender Japan has been able to alienate people from the perspective of gender and the recognition of gender as performative, resigning people to the poverty of the present and unable to imagine a different future.

Methodology

The methodology of this paper is based on literature review regarding theories about gender, subjectivity, individuation and self-representation, as well as narratives encountered in the course of the author’s experience in Japan. Such methodological choice comes from the fact that it was by having numerous encounters with such phenomena of nationalized self-description of gender by the Japanese youth that the author took interest in this topic, seeing how such discourses demonstrated to be connected with the readings from his other research interests.

By making use of these narratives collected outside the context of an interview, the discourses presented had the advantage of not being contaminated by the position of interviewer and interviewee that makes the discourse nothing more than a performance aimed at the researcher. As many of the narratives were took in the context of leisure, it is assumed that such voices were as close to the daily thoughts as possible, admitting that even those had some contamination in them. Thus, this seemed to be the best approach to be taken by the author while assessing the topic of making gender through nationalized identity discourses.

Literature Review

In the year of 2011 in Brazil, a book organized by Machado was released. The interesting take of this book was that perhaps for the first time in the field of Japanese Studies in Brazil has a group of researchers decided to write a book on Japanese culture using concepts of becoming, multiplicity, and other concepts that took away the subject of Identity from the center of studies and replaced it with discussion of subjectivities. The reason why this is the starting point of this paper is because it was as late as of 2011 that researchers begin to talk about Japanese not as an identity, not as related to nation-state, not as related to nature; but instead, as a processual construction of subjectivity that has elements of Japaneseness both on Japanese nationals, descendants, and non-descendants alike. It was only recently that some researchers decided to depart from the framework that can be epitomized by Tsuda’s (2003) usage of the term Return Migration, the notion of an essentialized Japanese identity that linked Japanese descendants permanently to their homeland, allowing having their immigration to a foreign land framed as a return.

As we follow the literature on Japanese ‘identity’ however, we see that Tsuda’s work is still influential on the minds of researchers that think about

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