Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Japanese English Learners on the Edge of 'Chaosmos': Félix Guattari and 'Becoming-Otaku'

Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Japanese English Learners on the Edge of 'Chaosmos': Félix Guattari and 'Becoming-Otaku'

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. This paper constructs a language learning perspective derived from the philosophical work of Félix Guattari, which enables a re-evaluation of the ways in which Japanese university students learn English in Japan. The implementation of Guattarian pedagogic practises into the English teaching environment at university in Japan has distinct advantages, which will explored throughout this article by close examination with respect to Guattari's arguments on language and technology. Applying Guattari in the English teaching and learning classroom at university does not neutralise the clash of cultures between the East and West as such, but rather dramatises the collisions and encourages 'mutant outgrowths' for the purposes of language learning. The reason for exploring these impacts in language learning environments is found in the theory of affect that one derives from Guattari. The deployment of Guattari in this context creates the possibility for an identity-based English learning agency open to a technologised and globalised subject, which is at the same time indelibly Japanese.

Keywords: Japanese language learners; identity politics; English teaching; ESL; Félix Guattari; technology and language learning

1. Introduction

How do Japanese university students learn English in Japan? Research in this field (see Gorsuch, 2001) has uncovered a host of communicative approaches, which have prioritised the ways in which English pronunciation, grammar, spelling and vocabulary have been rendered comprehendible and leamable to the Japanese subject. This paper will put forward a new approach to teaching English in Japan based on an identity politics (Norton, 2000) that is mediated through the philosophical lens of Félix Guattari, and which determines the detailed subjective transformations that the Japanese learner encounters as primary to the language teaching and learning process (Kubota, 1999; Miyahara, 2000; Gilmore, 2011). Rather than positing a process of English learning on and through the Japanese learner, this study looks within the broad scope of Japanese society for learning, and at the break out points and ways in which Japan has 'taken on speed' (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 268) in terms of the morphogenesis of learning values, for example, due to the affordances of technology and globalisation, sometimes understood as 'superdiversity' (Vertovec, 2007; Blommaert & Rampton, 2011) and 'supercomplexity' (Barnett, 2000). The focus of this paper elucidates upon the ways that language learning in Japanese society is accelerating, and how changes have come about due to the multivariant influences of technology and capitalism (see MECSST, 2002), here understood as the 'chaosmos', which is defined as a composed chaos pregnant with inaugural virtuality, but one consistent with semiotic influence. Traditional Japanese connections to nature through the practice of Shinto, the native religion of Japan, now co-exist alongside advanced technological innovation and global capital markets. These pressure points are access routes to forms of 21st century Japanese subjectivity and how they are presented in the contemporary context. The traditional collectivity and expression of what it means to be Japanese is undergoing a prolonged identity politics, enhanced and enacted with digital technology and capital flows (cf. MECSST, 2000). English teaching and learning in Japan must allow for and negotiate with these changes in the Japanese mind-set, if the content and style of English education in Japan is to be in any way meaningful.

Embedded within recent changes to Japanese subjectivity, and which should be taken into account by a 'social-cultural-affective' theory of language learning, is the nature of the English teacher. The introduction of the French theorist, Félix Guattari, into this role is in many ways a radical and playful move, which specifically questions the ways in which Japanese society conceives and respects 'the teacher'. …

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