Bodies at Play
The body has been the site of resistance, reclamation, and play. Just as bodies are sites of pain, they are also sites of pleasure. And Japanese culture has long reveled in pleasures of the flesh. Seminar Three will consider ways in which the body has been marketed as a site for entertainment. Beginning in the premodern period, the body—once extricated from the silken layers of Heian courtly decorum—became the site of visual pleasure. Japan initiated a robust pornography industry that capitalized on scopic entertainment. The body became art—on the page and on the stage. And art also found its way onto the body in the form of elaborate tattoos and sumptuous hair and clothing designs. In recent years, the body has become the site of new forms of marketing in the form of beauty pageants, sports, and a new melding of cultures (plastic surgery, cosmetics, fashions, etc.) Racial categories are challenged by plastic and reconstructive surgery, tanning, and other forms of body modification and augmentation. The globalization of popular culture and the ability of the Japanese body to slip so easily into new fashions and designs help to destabilize earlier notions of race, class, and culture. The body is fetishized as a medium for constructions of youth, beauty, and allure. And all while actual Japanese age, and decrepit bodies are relegated to the margins of society. Contemporary culture in Japan, particularly as it impinges on the body, is an extraordinarily vibrant field, with new studies replacing old at a rapid rate.