Voices and Self-Reflective Discourse of Facilitators Involved in Japan's Autobiographical Writing Movement

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:25
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Tazuko KOBAYASHI, Hitotsubashi University, Japan
I examine the effect of self-reflective discourse by facilitators who have been involved in the autobiographical writing movement as semi-professionals through the reconstructive analysis of their biographical narratives.

In Japan, life writing as a social movement has flourished several times since the early 20th century and especially from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, during which time, the self-publication of autobiographies as jibunshi[self –history] became a fad. It can be said that this fad has been revived in the two decades following the end of the 20th century.

One of the characteristic of this kind of writing is the act of “writing together,” whereby autobiographical writing is collectively practiced by groups. In such gatherings, individuals in a position of providing advice and guidance, i.e. facilitators, assist with the production of autobiographies.

In Japan, there are no formal professionals who specialize in the writing of autobiographies. However, there are semi-professionals who provide advice on how to write autobiographies and who are recognized as facilitators. Such individuals help with the production and publication of autobiographies and, in that sense, are  “a second kind of producer” (Plummer 1995:21).

Such facilitators typically have regular jobs, for example, as scenarists, novelists, scholars of Japanese literature, school teachers, or journalists, and apply various knowledge and skills acquired in their professional careers when providing advice. However, their self-reflective narratives may have more of an impact on the actual writing of autobiographies than their professional knowledge and skills related to writing, printing and/or book binding.

It is the facilitators’ self-reflective discourse a contemporaries or as individuals who have overcome hardships in life, more than their professional careers, that stimulates the production of autobiographies. I will illustrate this point through reconstructive analysis using a number of concrete examples of such self-reflective narratives.