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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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Hi, everybody!

As of last Thursday, I'm back in Japan, in my old neighbourhood (and in fact, my old apartment complex)in the western suburbs of Tokyo. It's a bit odd in its very familiarity: I still remember the train lines, where the shops are, even where to find certain products on the shelves, through a kind of automatic body-memory. For being so "far from home," it's remarkably homey. I just wish the language was coming back to me as fast! Some kind of brush-up language class may be in order. Suggestions welcome!

In anime terms, I found a local Comics Toranoana (time to manga: <1 day) while out getting apartment necessaries and picked up the fourth volume of Hetalia. I don't want to generalize based on one little shop, but the Hetalia boom seems to be fading, and I don't see a stand-out replacement for fujoshi yet. For the male otaku set, I see lots of Madoka doujin (since Toranoana sells both pro and amateur works), and lots of Vocaloid, as expected. Maybe I just notice what's familiar to me more, but I get the impression that the gap between what's popular in N.America and Japan is fairly narrow now. More observations to come once I make it out to Akiba and Otome Road, though.

What is really, bizarrely big on the streets is Mickey Mouse. Classic Mickey & Minnie are EVERYWHERE, much moreso than in 2010. I see them on towels, t-shirts, back-packs, you name it. Oddly, Mickey often seems to be wearing the British flag for pants. There's something to be said here about character goods and twisted brand nationalism, but I don't know what yet.

At any rate, today I'm heading to a lecture on post-90s Japanese art at Sophia University with some folks from the Anime and Manga Research List. I should get going right away, so here's to hoping I can actually find my way to the venue!
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I used to lie awake and wonder what would happen if a huge earthquake hit Japan. Mostly it was at 5AM in my little apartment in Tsurukawa, where my main concern was whether I should hide under the kitchen table or stand in the bedroom doorway. Sometimes I would think about it here in Canada too. How would I, how would the world, be affected by a major tectonic event in Japan?

You know, even when you think about it, you never really expect it.

The Canadian Red Cross, among many other organizations, is accepting donations for the relief effort. Or you can give your money to Lady Gaga, who will apparently...get it to Japan? Disaster relief is quite the lucrative industry, as always.

Still, here's to supporting the people of Japan in a pinch, whether you do it with money or with well-wishes for the rescue and rebuilding efforts.
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Ah, travel. It goes like this. When things are still up in the air beforehand and all I can do watch events approach on the horizon, I fret terribly and write it all down. But once I get to my destination and am immersed in real situations -navigating airports, finding trains, living and working among hundreds of strangers- then I become fearless, and busy, and don’t need to write a thing.

This is a problem when it comes to field notes, and blogging. I'll try to remedy that a little today.

Snapshots )
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This is it! I leave for Japan on Monday, and the preparations are taking up most of my time and energy right now. It's all about the packing, buying appropriate gifts for my hosts, reviewing Japanese grammar...and also avoiding prep by watching The Tatami Galaxy, which is really getting good and deserves a solid entry here some time. ^^

It's also about mental preparation. How to prepare for cross-cultural research?

By reading? )
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And I'm back! After a week in hot, sunny Scotland (I'm not kidding, the weather was very un-Scottish) I'm back in Canada. I'm here for about two weeks, and then I'll be packing up again and heading to Japan for the rest of the summer to do my study program fellowship. So here are some impressions of travel, looking back and looking forward. This does get to be about anime eventually, so bear with me here.

Tabibito, traveller )
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I might, you never know! Because this summer from mid-June to the end of August, I'll be going to Tokyo on a Summer Study Program, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Wako Univerisity's Department of Transcultural Studies has kindly agreed to host me and support my research on anime otaku subculture.

I'm really excited, but also kind of nervous. After moving to small-town Quebec, I learned that living in a place where you don't speak the language fluently means embarrassing yourself a lot until you figure it out. My Japanese is not as good as my French. Then there are the cultural (and culinary) differences to deal with. And research on top of that?

Well, expect some entertaining stories!

(More serious thoughts about doing cross-cultural "ethnography" as a film/lit student/fan to come, once I catch my breath.)


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April 2014

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