Doing Occidentalism through Mangaesque Convergence

Friday, July 18, 2014: 2:45 PM
Room: 501
Toshio MIYAKE , Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy
This paper addresses contemporary Japan-Italy relations in the field of popular cultures as shaped by the asymmetrical and mutually constitutive process of Occidentalism, Orientalism and self-Orientalism. In spite of the hegemonic and diversified impact of modern Occidentalism (F. Coronil 1996, K. Iwabuchi 2002), there is still no unified field of systematic academic investigation on the ‘West’ as a concept, which has become a kind of blind spot in the Humanities and Social Sciences (K.M. Heller 2007). Occidentalism still continues to be examined through a body of disconnected works on the one hand, or through methodological civilizationalism, nationalism and culturalism on the other (the West without quotation marks).

In this regard, modern Italy and Japan offer a heuristic alternative to the center/periphery model conventionally applied to Occidentalism, due to their ambivalent status of sharing a history both as orientalizing imperial powers, but also as orientalized exotic countries. Interestingly, in the last two decades, Italy has become the most loved foreign country in Japan among the whole young and female population (T. Miyake 2010), while Japan has witnessed a similar boom of popularity in Italy, thanks in particular to the Italian record of being the country with the highest number of anime series broadcast on television outside Japan (M. Pellitteri 2008).

The diffusion of Japanese popular cultures in contemporary Italy will be investigated firstly, by situating it within the process of Occidentalism, which will be examined through a theoretical perspective inspired by relational, intersectional and positional sociology (M. Emirbayer 1997, P.H. Collins 2000, P. Bourdieu 1984). Secondly, this study will address more specifically the transmedial constellation of Japanese popular cultures (manga, anime, videogames, character design, etc.) by bringing together an aesthetic theory of the mangaesque (J. Berndt 2012) and a media theory of convergence culture (H. Jenkins 2006).