Organized Panel Session
This panel considers the possibilities and challenges of empathy, community and connection within the study of Japanese literature and film. Textual critique, particularly from feminist perspectives, has frequently focused on motifs of difference and disruption as subversive attacks against patriarchal and hegemonic norms. However, such strategies are problematic when they risk alienating the subject and collapsing one’s sense of community. This is particularly evident in today’s increasingly divisive political climate.
First, Victoria Young will examine the poetry of Tōma Hiroko, whose distinctive voice invites her readers to experience the specific circumstances of life in Okinawa. Second, Hitomi Yoshio reads the novels of Kawakami Mieko, wherein women forge connections among real and projected imagined communities. Third, Juliana Buriticá Alzate analyses how Kirino Natsuo and Murata Sayaka’s writing inscribes female community building with both empowerment and pain, both within the text and between the text and its reader. Fourth, Jennifer Coates connects these themes by examining the limits of empathy when experienced by filmgoers and the ethnographic scholar who reads both film and viewer as text.
Discussant Brett de Bary’s insightful work on literary and translation studies offers one possible means for connecting our questions and engaging other texts, readings and voices. Ultimately, our goal is not simply to propose empathy as a topic for textual analysis but rather, in an increasingly fragmented world, to engage with the possibilities, challenges and limits for empathy as scholars on Japan working in fields of translation, literary studies, ethnography and critical pedagogy.