Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anne Allison – "The Japan Fad in Global Youth Culture and Millennial Capitalism" – summary and review

In "The Japan Fad in Global Youth Culture and Millennial Capitalism" (in: Mechademia: Emerging Worlds of Anima and Magna") Anne Allison attempts to explain the enormous popularity of Japanese cultural products among western, especially American, youth.

Allison argues that American youth feel that the translation gap between their culture and Japanese culture isn't unbridgeable and asked whether the 'j-cool" trend represents a shift is the global cultural power of the United-States.

Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (Asia: Local Studies/Global Themes)

With Japanese imports into American culture become less "odorless" or transparent and display identifiable Japanese features, Allison argues that the juxtaposition of different cultural codes is a global model which is different model of Americanization. The Japanese fad, Allison holds, is a global fantasy of mixed the known and the exotic unknown in an indefinable location. The fascination with Japanese cultural products is related to an attraction to something which is different (the fantasy of the Japanese cultural code) but at the same time real as in being from a real existing place (Japan). Fantasy and difference, otherness, are routed in a place which can be studied and visited. In other words, the attraction for Japan among American youth is a mixture of fantasy and realism which create what Roland Barthes called "a myth" – a place which is between the real and the imagined, the familiar and the strange.

For Allison the attraction towards Japanese products represents a new type of global imagination which gains hold with the decline of American "soft power". This is also the decline of a monolithic monochromatic cultural code which is being replaced by something more suitable to the contemporary mental state of "being in a world where the only sense of home is to be found in a constant state of change".

Allison argues that this new cultural code lends itself very comfortably to capitalism. Japanese cultural products supply a fantastic sphere (with erotic aspects which Allison attributes to Freud's notion of polymorphous perversity) of "perpetual transformation… that extend into cyber frontier, promises (new age) companionships and connectedness, albeit in a commodity form. This Japanese (imagined) cultural code fits in with the experience of worldwide post-industrial youth. The capitalistic dream world is a place in which progresses in always possible and pressing but final fulfillment is never possible. The nomadic situation of always being out of place, on the way to someplace else is completed with the sense of being able to continually reshape, to build polymorphic attachments in a state of constant flux that has no end other than itself.