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Carlson, Rebecca (2018) “MORE JAPANESE THAN JAPANESE”: SUBJECTIVATION IN THE AGE OF BRAND NATIONALISM AND THE INTERNET. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Today, modern technologies and the rapid circulation of information across geographic boundaries are said to be making the nation-state less relevant to daily life. In contrast, this dissertation argues that national boundary maintenance is increasingly made more relevant not in spite of such technologies, but precisely because of them. Indeed, processes of circulation are themselves making and re-making such boundaries rather than erasing them, while states simultaneously react to contain the perceived threats of globalization and to capitalize on the sale of their “cultural” commodities through nation branding.

For American otaku, or Japan fans, internet technologies and the consumption of Japanese media like videogames and anime are quintessential global flows from within which they first articulate a desire for Japan. Increasingly, some make the very real decision to leave home and settle in Japan, although scholars have suggested otaku are unable to understand the “real” Japan. Once there, however, the Japanese state’s ongoing nation branding policies, along with immigration control and patterns of everyday interactions with Japanese citizens, marginalize even long-term residents as perpetual visitors. Building on the work of Foucault, I seek to understand how notions of national “of courseness,” which fix Japaneseness as naturally homogeneous and impenetrable, subjectivize American fans.

Drawing on 12 months of full time participant observation with otaku living in Tokyo, along with 18 months of part time follow-up research, diachronic interviews with Americans in the US and Japan, and extensive textual analysis of all things “Japanese,” this work contrasts the purported deterritorializing promise of online communications and the withering of the relevance of the modern nation-state, with the national boundary making work that these otaku migrants participate in, both online and off. Once in Japan, otaku themselves actively support Japan's nation branding efforts by teaching English and producing the very cultural commodities that motivated their migration in the first place, as they increasingly codify what Japaneseness is for other “foreigners.” At the same time, otaku migrants further reproduce Japanese national identity through accepting and affirming their status as non-Japanese, and through the reinscription of these very boundaries onto other otaku.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Carlson, Rebeccacarlson@temple.edurlc47
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairStrathern, Andrew
Committee MemberBrown, Laura
Committee MemberMatza,
Committee MemberVee,
Committee MemberChilson,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 April 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 13 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 348
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropology, globalization, media, otaku, Japan
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 14:52
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 14:52

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