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Ambivalent Hopes, Gendered Desires: Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture

Sun, June 26, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 119

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


In twenty-first century Japan, citizens are increasingly experiencing multiple precarities, or feelings of uncertainty in life, such as unstable class identities from the lack of secure employment and isolated living conditions resulting from the breakdown of the heteronormative nuclear family. This panel explores permutations of hope located in the gendered desires of individuals who consume and create contemporary Japanese popular culture. Collectively, all four presentations examine how Japanese people’s experimentation with non-normative bodies, objects, and practices within popular culture offers us hope (or exposes the lack thereof) by rethinking gender and sexual identities, especially those centering on the family as a social institution. Adrienne Johnson demonstrates how fan consumption of androgynous Visual Kei bands gives women hope by liberating them from normative social roles of wife and mother. Kazuko Suzuki shows how Yaoi/Boys’ Love (BL) writers’ performative acts of transgressing inscribed gender roles in these media provide us with a sense of optimism for the genre. Michelle Ho argues that the affective labor and gendered performances of employees in dansō (dressing as men) cafes allow patrons to cope with precarity through the promise of imagining alternative forms of gender and sexuality. Kazumi Nagaike perceives fudanshi’s (rotten men) desires in consuming Boys’ Love manga as hopeful for offering alternative masculinities vis-à-vis masculine ideals exemplified by the salaryman. This timely panel thus offers various accounts of how Japanese people encounter precarity and negotiate ambivalent hopes through their avid participation in popular cultural practices today.

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Individual Presentations