・Japan as Disaster: Gojira in the 21st Century / Kota Inoue (University of Redlands, USA)
・Suspension of the Law: Function of State and Enunciating Subject in Oshima Nagisa's Death by Hanging (1968) / Misono Ryoko (Waseda University)
・At Play in the World: The Re-Installment of the Relation of World and Play and the Role of Anime / Alexander Zahlten (Dongguk University, South Korea)
・Mute Power: Political Theory in Contemporary Film Criticism / Jonathan M. Hall (Pomona College, USA)
Commentator: Anne McKnight (University of South California, USA)
Moderator: Alexander Zahlten (Dongguk University, South Korea)
Language: English. No registration required. Adimission: Free for Members, 1,000 yen for Non-Members
The notion of power and its specific relation to the cinematic form has been at the center of discussions of the medium from the beginning. A multitude of approaches influenced by the social sciences, Marxism, psychoanalysis and others have emerged that strive to locate an essential power structure of the cinema, many of which by the late 20th century had descended into academic mannerism. More recently there have been attempts to reevaluate the relations of power and the moving image and the respective conception of power they imply, informed directly or indirectly by the enormous sociotechnological shifts of the last 20 years.
This panel will present an array of approaches to the question of cinematic power, focusing on moving images and their connected theoretical and socioeconomic practice in Japan from the 1950s to today. These investigations are not meant to trigger a new theoretical dominant. Instead they aim for a pluralization of the problem of power, one that conceptualizes it as a constellation of modes with differing systemic traits and territories of efficacy. The panel thus also aims to generate discussion on the historical relations, and possibly interactions and contradictions, of these different modes.
Japan as Disaster: Gojira in the 21st Century / Kota Inoue (University of Redlands, USA)
The Great Tohoku Earthquake brought an unprecedented level of destruction. While the quake and the tsunami caused most of physical damage and deaths, the leaking radiation poses even larger problem. Prompted by the unfolding disaster in Japan, this paper revisits one of the most frequently discussed films in relation to nuclear destruction, Gojira (1954), and re-evaluates its relevance to our troubled situation in the 21st century.
If Rey Chow underscored the visuality of the atomic blast in her discussion of the world as a target, and by doing so suggested epistemic implications in cinematic representations, Gojira’s mode of destruction, which conspicuously lacks the iconic mushroom cloud image, helps us further develop theories of cinematic power, just as we face invisible radiation threat in real life. Furthermore, as recent studies have pointed out, Gojira, a disaster movie that consciously visualizes destruction while keeping Japan’s postwar subtly invisible, is invested in a particular representation of history. Therefore, the film offers an opportunity to examine another—rather classic—issue of power in film studies: ideology in cinematic representation. This paper will especially focus on the way the film simultaneously embraces and resists the Cold War ideology of the U.S., opening up a path to examine the U.S. hegemony in our own times.
Suspension of the Law: Function of State and Enunciating Subject in Oshima Nagisa's Death by Hanging (1968) / Misono Ryoko (Waseda University)
At the beginning of the year 1968, when the student movement was heated on a global scale, Oshima Nagisa released a provocative film titled Koushikei (Death by Hanging). In the trailer of this film, Oshima took the role of narration, addressing his words using the first personal pronoun “we,” to the audience who designated by the second personal pronoun “you.” This rhetorical contrivance designed to address directly the audience made Oshima to make this film not only a piece of work defined as “Art”, but also as an “event” which occurred in a specific temporal and spatial standpoint. In this act of enunciation situated in the historical context of the late 1960s Japan, Oshima and the members of his production Souzousha questioned the axiomatic nature of the State through an analysis of the death penalty system. This paper examines how Oshima explored the motif of death penalty (and the failure to deliver death penalty) in the geographical framework of modern Japan and its relation to Korea, Japan’s internal “Other.” In so doing, I will elucidate this film as a distinguished analysis of the system of the State as the legal and territorial institution.
At Play in the World: The Re-Installment of the Relation of World and Play and the Role of Anime / Alexander Zahlten (Dongguk University, South Korea)
The tropes of “world” and “play” have experienced a resounding comeback in contemporary theory, be it in the works of Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Badiou or the rediscovery of philosopher Eugen Fink. Yet this is not only a phenomenon of deliberate reflection; in popular culture there has been a similar rebound that can be seen as a vernacular version of philosophical, sociological or media-theoretical formulations.
This paper will use anime works such as the .hack/ series, which deals explicitly with the question of digital media games, or Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, which works against its own status as a game to achieve its effects, to map how these themes are negotiated through anime both on the levels of text and practice. Anime will in this case be defined not as a genre or subgenre of animation, but rather as a coordinating nexus of various media, and the focus will be strongly on its transmedia effects. It will explore the shifts in the new modalities of power that anime implies, is subject to, and helps enforce. It will then attempt to draw conclusions for larger developments in media societies.
Mute Power: Political Theory in Contemporary Film Criticism / Jonathan M. Hall (Pomona College, USA)
Describing “aesthetic acts” as instigating “new modes of sense perception and … novel forms of political subjectivity,” Jacques Rancière ponders the status of the image within contemporary critical discourse at the same time as refusing the foreclosure of nostalgic, emancipatory logics. The trajectory of the latter according to Rancière, begins with early century avant-gardism, moves through the crisis of 1960s radical critique, and settles into the late century “routine of discenchanted discourse that acts as the ‘critical’ stand-in for the existing order.” I survey the function of such “disenchanted discourse” within the critical Japan film studies field. On the one hand, I understand how a collectivist and revolutionary logic is both analyzed and productively re-inhabited by recent film historical archaeology (Hirasawa, Nornes, and others), while on the other I bring to this same problematic a biopolitical and discursive conception influenced by both Benjamin and Foucault (Nakazato, Spivak, Ukai, and others). My goal is not to juxtapose Marxist vs. postcolonial political expression, but rather to find within both Japanese film and its theories a movement beyond “the conquests of artistic innovation” and “the victories of emancipation.” Films referenced include work by Adachi Masao and Higashi Yôichi.