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Aaaand there goes the summer. Wow. Now that I'm home again, I can't even begin to summarize everything that happened in Japan, everything that's happened in my life. So instead I'll look back by looking forward, and just do my acafannish thing.

One of the major reasons I went to Japan this summer was the chance to lecture at Wako University, in Ueno Toshiya's class on Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. I had free run of the massive tome, but it wasn't hard to pick a topic: I am fascinated by their theory of the Body without Organs, which is in short a surface or circulation of desire that is not yet fixed to a single object. I can't explain why, but this idea touches me deeply, like something I have always known and never been able to express. I felt a similar mysterious attraction to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku: the feeling of encountering a series of strangely impersonal yet deeply affecting images of an almost too-literal BwO. So, I decided to read one in the other, both through each, for the lecture. Based on the class' reaction, I think the example really worked to illustrate a difficult concept! To get all I can out of a topic I'm passionate about, I also proposed to expand the lecture through fan studies for presentation at the School Girls and Mobile Suits/Mechademia conference in September.

I'll be reworking the lecture for presentation in the next few weeks. So, I thought I'd post the presentation abstract here to get my brain -and this blog- started again. This, so far, is the idea:

"What Can a Vocaloid Do?: The Kyara as Body without Organs"

This paper explores the intersections between "kyara," desire, and fan production by reading the Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the "Body without Organs" (BwO).

The first section explains the elusive BwO through three keywords: desire, intensity, and (de)stratification. It shows how Deleuze and Guattari understand desire not as a lack but as an immanent creative force, generating freely-circulating intensities. In contrast to criticisms of the BwO as apolitical abstraction, however, I bring out the vital social implications that arise when the BwO is organized or stratified in embodied practice.

To illustrate a BwO in practice, I turn next to the example of the kyara or character in anime, manga, light novels and related media. Here I discuss the difference between the kyara of the media-mix industry and the traditional "I" of the Japanese "I-novel," comparing their modes of subjectivity and desire, their media temporalities, and the ways they build up or break down strata of identity and social hierarchy.

Finally, as a concrete case study, I consider the virtual idol singer Hatsune Miku and the uses she is put to by major corporations and fan collectives. In asking "What Can a Vocaloid Do?", my paper reformulates Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the BwO in light of today's media environment, and provides a more complex perspective on the Vocaloid phenomenon, beyond the easy celebrations of user empowerment touted by the media giants themselves.
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Broadcasting live from the heart of Grading Country, it's The Merin Minute, reporting on any and all things me-related! Today's top stories:

Teaching: is done! Both classes wrote final exams this week. Now to deal with the heaps of frantically-scrawled booklets, containing occasional gems of insight and lots of hazardous waste material ("Fritz Lang's Waltz with Bashir." I kid you not.)

Research: is beginning! I'm presenting at the Film Studies Association of Canada conference, held during Canada's massive week-long humanities Congress in May. My paper: "Digital Dreams and the Nostalgia for Cinema in Hugo and Paprika." Looking forward to this one!
I'll also likely be lecturing this summer at Wako University (Japan), in Ueno Toshiya's seminar on A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari. I hope to talk about the Body without Organs and "kyara" or character bodies (possibly in early shounen-ai manga/anime, possibly Hatsune Miku.) It sounds exciting, but I'm nervous about the cost of this summer's Japan research plans, in financial and emotional terms.

Anime: Apollon SQUEEEEE! The first episode of Watanabe Shinichiro's new series Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) actually made me squee out loud. In retrospect, I get the feeling I'm being hooked by a formulaic narrative and typed characters: delicate classical music student Nishimi Kaoru transfers to a new school in backwater Kyushu, where impulsive, jazz-loving bad-boy Kawabuchi Sentarou takes a sudden liking to him. Kaoru is fascinated in return by Sentarou's "drumming." I see the bait there, Watanabe. But I like it, so I'll let the hook sink in and trust you to pull me somewhere good. Also, new music/jazz covers by Yoko Kanno, yay!

Personal: Feeling very "up-and-down" this month: content one day, overwhelmed by anxiety the next. Changes in schedule always upset me, even "positive" changes like the end of term. Still, I'm trying to be gentle and give myself more down-time. I'm drawing again, and writing fiction. Nothing I'd show the world, but it makes me happy.

Blog: Really thinking of switching to Dreamwidth, but see above about the anxiety-provoking effects of change. Any advice on how to switch over easily?

And that was your Merin-Minute. Tune in next time for another exciting installment!
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I love symposiums. Symposia. You know, those things where people present papers on esoteric topics and then debate over issues you never get to talk about normally, and other things you didn’t even know about before.

Case in point: the “Borderlessness and Youth Cultures in Modern Japan” symposium held in Montreal Oct. 15-16. There was a lot packed into a day and a half, from hikikomori to “precariat” literature to narrative consumption in marketing. What really struck me, though, were two papers following on each other by Livia Monnet and Mari Kotani, who took two different approaches to gender and sexuality in women’s media/performance.

Summaries and thoughts below the cut )


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April 2014

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