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SEMINAR: Asian Studies Seminar Series, Seminar 1 2017

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Today's date is Monday, September 25, 2017
Asian Studies Seminar Series, Seminar 1 2017 : The “Zero” Subjectivity of the Modern Boy: Contesting the Meaning of Modern Masculinity in Interwar Japan Other events...
This presentation provides an overview of my dissertation project, which explores a new discourse of masculinity in the visual and literary culture of Japan during the 1920s and 1930s – the Modern Boy (modan bōi), commonly shortened as the mobo. The mobo appeared at a time when what had begun as a state-sanctioned project of modernity in the Meiji period had become a multiplicity of competing modernities due to diverging views on what it meant to be modern. In this dynamic context of change and debate, this thesis attempts to demonstrate how the mobo’s often ambivalent construction in visual and textual discourses was reflective and constitutive of tensions, contradictions and contestations in the struggle to determine what it meant for men to be “modern” in Japan’s interwar years. In 1928, members of a roundtable discussion on different aspects of modern life called the mobo a “zero” in comparison with the moga as a comment on the agency of the moga and therefore, by extension, the mobo’s lack of agency. In my exploration of the discourse on the mobo, I am drawn to critically interrogate this metaphor of the mobo as a “zero” because it resonates with the way his masculine and modern subjectivity was often defined as a lack – of agency, masculinity or modernity. In my interrogation of the mobo as a “zero”, I examine the ideological assumptions and socio-historical forces underpinning visual and literary constructions of the mobo as an undesirable and unviable form of modern and sexual subjectivity. At the same time, however, this research aims to reclaim his subjectivity by understanding the mobo as an embodied form of modern masculinity that lived alongside various other modern masculinities, engaging in and inspiring new expressions and practices of modern masculinity during early twentieth-century Japan. In this way, my work on the mobo not only challenges the dismissal of the mobo’s subjective agency by commentators of the mobo in the 1920s and 1930s, it also argues for the inclusion of non-mainstream perspectives of gender and modernity in our understandings of how gender construction was linked in complex ways to Japan’s project of nation-building and international positioning in the early twentieth-century.
Speaker(s) Debbie Chan
Location Seminar room G.25, Social Sciences North
Contact Laura Dales <laura.dales@uwa.edu.au>
Start Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:00
End Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:00
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <karen.eichorn@uwa.edu.au>
Last Updated Mon, 14 Aug 2017 09:45
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