Recreating Japanese Men

Recreating Japanese Men

Recreating Japanese Men

Recreating Japanese Men

Synopsis

The essays in this groundbreaking book explore the meanings of manhood in Japan from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. Recreating Japanese Men examines a broad range of attitudes regarding properly masculine pursuits and modes of behavior. It charts breakdowns in traditional and conventional societal roles and the resulting crises of masculinity. Contributors address key questions about Japanese manhood ranging from icons such as the samurai to marginal men including hermaphrodites, robots, techno-geeks, rock climbers, shop clerks, soldiers, shoguns, and more. In addition to bringing historical evidence to bear on definitions of masculinity, contributors provide fresh analyses on the ways contemporary modes and styles of masculinity have affected Japanese men's sense of gender as authentic and stable.

Excerpt

Sabine Frühstück and Anne Walthall

Shoguns, hunters, merchants, pundits, soldiers, shop clerks, labor union members, anime producers and their creations, techno-geeks, homeless people, members of village youth organizations, hermaphrodites, rock climbers, and robots. Insofar as they are designated male, all embody some form of masculinity, yet all are readily distinguishable one from the other, not just because they lived or live at different times and occupy different spaces, but because each lays claim to a specific notion of what it means to be a man. From the status-based differences of early modern Japan to the occupation- (or joblessness-) based identities of the present, the connotations of masculinity have varied widely.

Depending on their topic and discipline, the authors in this volume have taken diverse approaches to questions of how to study masculinity while remaining sensitive to gulfs between different periods, from earlier ages to the present. If shoguns, merchants, farmers, or store clerks in the seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries had been asked what it takes to be a man, such a self-evident question would likely have been met with a blank stare. In our contemporary world of overly determined identities, it can elicit a detailed response. Men in the past (that is, before modernity) conceived of masculinity primarily in terms of maturity while taking their manhood for granted. In other words, the history of masculinity before the late nineteenth century is primarily one of maturity envisioned, struggled for, fallen short of, or achieved. Just as Gregory Pflugfelder demonstrated that taking the premodern manifestations of sexual practices into account provides the essential background for modern discourses on same-sex desire, juxtaposing Sawara shop clerks to the techno-geeks of Akihabara provides us with a similar perspective on how premodern manifestations of manhood interlock with modern and . . .

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