Beyond the Orient: Contemporary Polish Discourse on Japanese Global Culture

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:21
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Yasuko SHIBATA, The Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
The paper aims at inquiring to the “location” of cultural identities for Poles in the contemporary world in the face of Japanese otherness.

    Poland occupies a curious place in the postcolonial discourse, going beyond the dichotomized hierarchization of the “West” over the Orient. Being geographically in-between the East and the West, Poland, due to both the loss of sovereignty and status as a former imperial power in Eastern Europe, as well as its “return” to Europe and entry into NATO, shows a unique presence in relation to Russia, Western Europe, other Eastern European countries and the Third World.

    Observing the unique case of Poland as a country that experienced socialism and the aftermath of 1989, and more than 200 years of “Romantic-symbolic cultural style” that formed its sense of cultural identity around such values as fatherland, national liberty and national solidarity, I would like to consider how Poles consume the otherness of Japanese culture that has been enjoying a growing popularity since the 1990s as they find themselves within the globalized world.

    What are the general knowledge and images of Japan held by Polish consumers of Japanese global products such as sushi, anime, green tea, or even pornography? How do Poles perceive the Orientalist aspects of these products? What are the “valid” or “plausible” values, ideas and interests that Japanese cultural products offer for the formation of Poles’ cultural identity? Which values are the most repulsive for Poles?

    Materials for analysis based on a method of critical discourse analysis to answer the above-listed questions include semi-structured in-depth interviews with Japanese (sushi) restaurant owners in Warsaw, standardized questionnaires with their clients and in-depth interviews with Poles interested in or engaged in studying Japanese culture, as well as Polish press articles, reportage, travel literature and memoirs.