Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture presents a workshop on

Media, Identity and Performance in Japan and Beyond

November 13, 2010
Sophia University Building 12, Room 301
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Abstracts and Bios

Paper 1: Positioning Cosplay as a Global Subculture
Edmund W. Hoff (Nagoya University)

The word cosplay as a term has been in use for almost 30 years in Japan and abroad. During this time it has developed dramatically to a point where currently there are almost 100 countries around the world where events including cosplay exist. Within this popular growth lies a distinct set of commonalities defining it as a unique subculture. This paper will illustrate where cosplay stands as a subculture in Japan and around the world. Beyond this framework it will demonstrate how the subculture is developing within Japanese society today and through a sociological framework examine where cosplay in a post-subcultural context. Further points I will address are what specific commonalities bind the global cosplay subculture. What roles do the two recognized centers of cosplay culture in the United States and Japan maintain in juxtaposition? What is the relationship of cosplay with other cultural groups such as otaku and Gothic/Lolita? As a subculture which maintains common fundamentals regardless of where the group is found, there are distinct differences as well. Cosplay is an example of Japanese youth culture having an impact around the globe and is in the process of reinventing itself within Japan.

Edmund W. Hoff graduated from the University of British Columbia before moving to Japan in 1998. While residing in Japan, he began post-graduate studies in 2003 at Nagoya University (Graduate Studies in International Development). Around the same time, he started working as translator and organizer for the World Cosplay Summit. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis, which adopts a sociological view of cosplay as subculture.

Paper 2: "It's More Than taking Taking Pictures": Framing 'Play' and Performance in Cos-play
Alexis Truong (University of Ottawa/Sophia University)

Cosplay is a relatively well-known folk term in Japanese popular culture, but its appearance in recent academic discussions deserves reflection. As a broad analytical term, cosplay has been used to encompass different types of practices, some of which are explicitly defined by participants in opposition to others. What, then, is cosplay, and what could be its relevance for contemporary social sciences? Cosplay is often defined as manga, anime and video game costume play, but has also been used to talk about practices such as, for example, Gothic/Lolita and visual-kei. Additionally, even when looking at "layers" ? manga, anime and video game cosplayers ? specifically we observe different ways in which the costume is played, and played with. To conflate such practices is problematic, as it limits our ability to understand what is at stake for participants ? from broader questions of media reception to interaction modalities, self-definition processes and the place of the body in fan practices such as these. This discussion will center on some of the problems surrounding theoretical discussions of cosplay practices, as well as the pertinence of this research object for contemporary social questions.

Alexis Hieu Truong is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Ottawa, and a member of the research laboratory Observatoire des nouvelles pratiques symboliques (ONOUPS). Currently, he is a research student at Program in Global Studies, Sophia University. His research focuses on practices of cosplay in Canada and Japan, and more precisely on the way they articulate performance, interaction and contemporary forms of selfhood. He received a research scholarship from the Fonds quebecois de la recherche sur la societe et la culture and an Excellence scholarship from the University of Ottawa.

Paper 3: Deconstructing a Subculture: Contextualizing the Dynamics of Youth Identity and Subculture
Isaac Gagne (Yale University)

What does what you wear say about who you are? What more might it say about who you aren't? And what can research on cosplay say about Japanese society more broadly or about the dynamics of identity more generally? This paper explores the fine lines drawn between and within subcultures in contemporary Japan through a case study of a well-known and often misperceived subcultural group known as Gothic/Lolita. By placing Gothic/Lolita within its spatial, aural, and visual historical contexts I aim to trace the development of one subcultural practice that is often classified as an example of "cosplay." Rather than a presentist description of "what Gothic/Lolita is" I offer an explanation of "why Gothic/Lolita is," and the ideological processes of identity and alterity that support the ever-fragile boundaries of subcultural communities within Japanese society. In the process I hope to raise questions about the dynamics of subcultural identity in particular and the methodologies, analytical perspectives, and academic contribution of pop and sub cultural research more broadly.

Isaac Gagne is a Ph.D. Candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Yale University currently researching the intersection of faith, morality and ethics in everyday life in Japan. His focus is on the personal and social dynamics within secular and religious associations and how individuals create meaning and stability throughout their life course through moral frameworks and ethical practices. He is the author of "Urban Princesses: Performance and "Women's Language" in Japan's Gothic/Lolita Subculture" in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.

Paper 4: Overseas Deployment of Fashion Culture from Japan: The Policy Process of Pop-culture Fashion Valuing
Nakamura Jin (University of Tokyo)

In Japan, there are a variety of fashion cultures. Only limited areas of fashion receive support from the Japanese government and are introduced to foreign countries. Pop-culture fashion such as school uniforms, Gothic/Lolita and "cosplay" are the major areas that are familiar to other countries. The assigned responsibilities of each governmental ministry in Japan greatly influence this phenomenon. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry chiefly takes charge of fashion as one area of the textile industry in Japan. However, the textile industry is primarily silk-reeling industry and apparel manufacturing, and pop-culture fashion has not been very highly valued in this policy area. On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is utilizing high evaluation of pop-culture fashion to encourage private-level diplomacy. One of the main reasons for MOFA to focus on this is that METI does not regard pop-culture fashion as an important policy area. Ministries in Japan are prone to take actions that avoid conflict with other ministries. However, it is also typical for them to choose a policy field where they can expect high appreciation and effective outcomes. These two behavioral aspects have led MOFA to support events that introduce Japanese pop-culture fashion to other countries such as Thailand. This paper explains the phenomenon with the theory of bureaucracy.

Nakamura Jin is an assistant professor in the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies at the University of Tokyo. His research interests include public administration and public policy for fashion industries. He successfully chaired the Fashion Policy Working Group for The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry from 2009 to 2010.

Patrick W. Galbraith (University of Tokyo)

Patrick W. Galbraith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo. In 2007, he co-founded a non-profit tour and news service in Akihabara. He is the author of the "Otaku Encyclopedia" and "Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara." Recent and upcoming publications include "Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan," "Akihabara: Conditioning a Public Otaku Image" and "Fujoshi: Girls and Women Exploring Transgressive Intimacy in Contemporary Japan"

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