Session 19: Room 11-311
Individual Papers on Asian Cultural History

Chair: Alexander Vesey, Meiji Gakuin University
1) Hongwei Lu, University of Redlands
New Urban Cinema: Transformation of Urban Space and Familial Intimacy in Contemporary China

Toward the late 1990s, a different group of urban films were produced in China. Unlike the underground 6th Generation films, this new group of urban films has been both warmly received by the domestic audience and accepted by government censors. Chinese journalists immediately put a label to these films, classifying them as “New Urban Cinema” in an attempt to differentiate them from the urban films made by earlier filmmakers. The new label is also invented to define an up-to-the-minute sense of urbanity. What is embedded within the New Urban Cinema phenomenon is the rhetoric of urban space transformation shaped by post-reform expansion of urbanity. These films revolve around themes of socially produced spatiality and personal, family, and social relations from the perspective of the urban middle class. A fundamental unsettling of interpersonal, familial, and social relationships accompanies the post-reform “concrete revolution.” In this paper, I focus on two major films of New Urban Cinema: Spring Subway and Shower.  Both films touch upon displacement in urban spatial experience, focusing on the transformations of public communal space and private living space. Spring Subway creates a mode of transit and emotional experience associated with the libidinal energy and social potency of a supermodern “non-place” space, whereas Shower creates an intimate mode of locational experience anchored in the traditional “anthropological place” space.

2) Masumi Kagaya, Tsukuba University
Social Hierarchy and Class in Meiji period: Spectacles of Slum described in Documentaries by Gennosuke

The division of classes into samurai, farmer, artisan and tradesman was abolished in the Meiji period. The revolutionarily changes in economic and social system caused many people to moved into big cities in search for jobs. The new circumstances caused them many hardships, and many were forced to live in slums. These people became the subject of documentaries that gained immediate popularity. Most documentary writers focused on the poverty of these people, and the readers were very curious to learn about the slum world described in these works.

 For the ordinal people, the slum seemed a completely different world. Slums in the Meiji era were not a new phenomenon but differed in many ways from those of the Edo Period. This was because the strict hierarchy of Edo period was dissolved after the Restoration, followed by fast paced economic developments.

 The emergence of slums was recognized by all the documentary writers as a popular theme. But Yokoyama took a different stance. The difference between him and other writers was the way he understood slums. The other writers did not see the slums as a social phenomenon, unique to the Meiji era. Yokoyama, however, concentrated on the sociological aspect of slums. For him a slum was a panorama of ordinary people’s daily life of the time and also a social condition brought forth by Japanese modernization. 

 This paper focuses on the birth of modern slums in Japan by analyzing them through the writings of Yokoyama

3) Shiho Maeshima, Kanagawa University/University of British Columbia/The University of Tokyo
Rethinking Women’s Magazines: Mass-Market Women’s Magazines and Reading Culture in 1920s–30s Japan

In the 1920s and 30s, mass-market women's magazines triggered numerous controversies among intellectuals in Japan. Interestingly, these arguments reveal that the periodicals they discussed were quite different from how one would imagine "women's magazines" today.  First, while these discussions used the term "fujin-zasshi" (women's magazines 婦人雑誌), many of them took it for granted that these so-called "women's magazines" were read not only by women, but also by men. Secondly, sometimes overtly and other times covertly, the discourse on women's magazines centered mainly on the issue of democratization of print culture. Indeed, unlike their marginalized position in most historical studies of print culture, women's magazines played a trailblazing role in the democratization of publishing practices in Japan and maintained an undisputed lead in circulation until the late 1930s. They developed writing styles with a heavy emphasis on orality, which, combined with illustrations and photos, gave less-educated readers easy access to the articles. The magazines' diverse contents, including amply entertaining articles and photo sections, attracted a widespread readership among both genders and cultivated new reading practices. Such changes in magazine styles as well as reading habits severely disturbed the existing order of reading culture. Analyzing various discourses on and in women's magazines during the 1920s and 1930s, this study reexamines the significance of this particular type of periodical in modern Japanese print and reading culture.

4) Yusuke Tanaka, International Christian University
Freedom from the Press: Intellectuals and Their Response to the Tokyo Newspaper Strike in 1919

In August 1919, sixteen Tokyo-based newspaper companies joined together and suspended publication for four days as a countermeasure against a strike by newspaper workers demanding improvement of labor conditions. The Tokyo Newspaper Strike (toka shinbun dōmei kyūkan jiken) is a little studied episode in the history of both the labor movement and journalism in modern Japan. The incident gave an unprecedented experience to urban newspaper readers: the absence of a familiar modern mass media that plays an important role in creating the imagined community that made up the Japanese "nation." This paper will examine how this unusual occasion was understood by intellectuals in the Taisho period. The sudden absence of the modern media led them to re-think the necessity (or lack thereof) of reading of the daily affairs happening in the secular world. For some, the incident was manifest evidence that Japanese society was entering a new stage where blue-collar workers have become exerted power in aggravation of class conflict.  In contrast, for some others the absence of daily news was a rare chance, after a long interval, to flee from ordinary everyday affairs and instead to devote themselves to an authentic life where they pursue cultural values that exist beyond time. Through the analysis of their remarks on the incident, this paper will discuss how Japanese intellectuals perceived the world and their social mission in the new age of imperial democracy.

5) Lisa Yinghong Li, J.F. Oberlin University
Reinventions of the Female Self: Recent Additions to China Fictions in Foreign Languages

The female bildung is one the favorite narrative structures that women writers in general use to explore issues of female identity and possibilities, or frustrations, for young women to become integrated into the largely patriarchal society while claiming their own agency. This paper will focus on three mainland Chinese women writers who have made new attempts at rejuvenating this conventional genre. Writing from a diaspora position and in a time when postsocialism reshaped many aspects of Chinese reality, these women writers provide new angles to examine Chinese women’s literature. Their texts can be seen as conscious or subconscious efforts at writing beyond limitations inflicted by the expansive cultural production of the so-called chick lit, as well as the increasingly casual, if not suspicious, practice of self-eroticism that magnifies the polymorphous female body. Shan Sa’s novel The Girl who Played Go, Wang Lulu’s The Lily Theater, and Guo Xiaolu’s A Concise Chinese –English Dictionary for Lovers are first-person narratives that are set in different and crucial times of modern Chinese history: from Japan’s occupation of Manchuria in the 1930s, to the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, to the beginning of the socialist-capitalist China of the 2000s. In these texts, the modern Chinese female self in maturation struggles to search and define a historic space and time to reinscribe their female agency and subjectivity. Their journeys to self-identity prove to be tumultuous and even fatal. Hence, these texts problematize postfeminist acceptance of material contentment and physical pleasure.