Eco-Criticism from the Periphery: Japanese Fiction in Asian Landscapes

Title: 1073 | Eco-Criticism from the Periphery: Japanese Fiction in Asian Landscapes
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Arun Shyam, The English and Foreign Languages University, India (organizer, chair)
Michael K. Bourdaghs, University of Chicago, United States (discussant)
Thuc Thi Tran, Vietnam National University, Vietnam (presenter)
Piyanuch Wiriyaenawat, Thammasat University, Thailand (presenter)
Anushree Prakash, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India (presenter)
Antonius R. Pujo Purnomo, Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia (presenter)


The four papers in this panel employ a trans-regional lens in attempting to address the experiences of humanity through the narratives of individuals who on the one hand, are situated locally, inhabiting different distinct geographical areas, but who on the other hand are global; connected by transregional phenomenon

Thuc analyzes Furukawa Hideo's work as a unique piece of ecological literature, depicting a situation in which human life is completely devastated by nature. Piyanuch and Anushree take up lived narratives in the works of Murakami Haruki and Ishii Yuka to examine the relationship between humans and natural disasters, while Antonius’s paper on Komatsu Sakyo’s novel tries to locate the role of disaster and the international community.

What is the role of disaster narratives in understanding the behavior of humans and the environment? How do subjective experiences of trans-regional phenomenon contribute to our perception of humanity as a whole? The panel will employ ecological critique theory among other interdisciplinary approaches to answer these questions.

Comprised of members from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the United States, this panel represents an attempt at engaging scholars from various countries to help communities broaden our perspectives on disaster narratives from Japan, which we believe will enrich our collective knowledge of Asia as well as help us locate our subjective experiences in connection to a pressing global phenomenon.

Panel Abstracts:
Furukawa Hideo's Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure: The Experience of “Go, See and Write” as a Writer's Reaction After the Earthquake
After the disaster of Japan in March 11th, 2011, many contemporary Japanese poets and writers raised their voices to reflect on the painful and fierce reality of the destruction of nature. Furukawa Hideo's Horses, Horses was written right after that disaster, with the English translation version appearing in 2016.After hearing the news about Fukushima, Furukawa moved to live temporarily near the nuclear plants and described in his subsequent work what happened there. Eyes that should close but cannot, will not. Horses, Horses represents a fusion of genres: reportage, memoir, essay and novel. It is also a fusion of reality and fiction, both the ongoing exposure of horrific reality, and the recollection of past memories of the land. The work presents the writer's multidimensional view of the disaster as it unfolded.This paper aims to analyze Furukawa's work as a unique piece of ecological literature, depicting a situation where human life is completely destroyed by nature. And the disaster on March 11th was just the beginning. People always try to control nature, but they cannot avoid disaster. The unavoidable question remains: how should people live together with nature?As an island nation in Asia, Japan has suffered numerous natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunami. In recent years, many other countries in the region have been severely affected by floods, tremors, and other disasters. What roles does literature play in reflecting ecological disasters, especially in today’s globally interconnected world.

The Earthquake: The Calamity or the Chance of Rebirth; A Case Study of ‘Thailand’ by Murakami Haruki
‘Thailand’ by Murakami Haruki was published in November 1999 and is one of the six short stories in “After the Quake”. It depicts Satsuki, an aging thyroid doctor who comes to Thailand, where she meets Nimit, a Thai guide and chauffeur. While interacting with him, Satsuki has the chance to listen to jazz again and to talk with him about the Great Hanshin earthquake. These incidents prompt Satsuki recall past events and also help her to overcome her desires for revenge.It is well known that this story was written after the Great Hanshin earthquake. But the setting of the story is Thailand, where major earthquakes rarely happen. Kobe, the epicenter of this earthquake, is described as the place where the man Satsuki hated lived. It is remarkable that this story is not told through the perspective of the victims. Satsuki actually wanted the earthquake to happen so that it would kill that man. Can the desire for disaster finally bring about the true catharsis?This paper aims to study the relationship between humans and disasters portrayed through a literary work. Do disasters bring only damage, grief and death? In fact, disasters are not the end; they are just the beginning. The story suggests that beyond appreciating the precious lessons of survival from the disasters, we also need to explore the more basic meanings of human life.

Reflections on the Past: Disaster Narrative Analysis of Mud in Ishii Yuka’s Hundred Year Mud
Hyakunendoro (Hundred Year Mud) by Ishii Yuka received the 158th Akutagawa Prize in 2017. The novel depicts the 2015 Chennai floods in India and is based on authors’ own experiences in the city. Its vivid descriptions provide readers information about the floods and the novel played an important role in alerting a wider audience to the Chennai floods. The protagonist is an anonymous Japanese woman who teaches Japanese language in an IT firm and arrives in India three and a half months before the calamity happens. She crosses a river every day to reach her workplace. During the floods the river overflows and the entire story is based on her observations as she crosses the bridge to reach her workplace.This paper will discuss the relation between the disaster and the story, and the role flood plays in constructing the backdrop and its influence on the protagonist. As the disaster narrative of the novel reflects on nature, the flood appears to have a deep impact on the protagonist’s thought patterns. When she sees mud by the road, she is reminded of her past and her relationships with her mother and ex-husband. While living in the present, she seems to be constantly negotiating with the past. Though the floods are a regional phenomenon, in the novel they appear to take on symbolic significance. The paper analyses how the subjective perception of the flood influences the storyline as it gradually unfolds, opening the entire narrative to questions of global importance.

The Novel "Japan Sinks" by Komatsu Sakyo: A Warning from the Past about the Future Natural Disasters
Nihon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks) is a masterpiece novel written by Komatsu Sakyo in 1973. The work would have a major impact on life in Japan in the years after its publication. It offered at least two important lessons to the Japanese to prepare themselves for natural disasters. Second, it stressed the importance for the Japanese of establishing good relations with neighboring countries in anticipation of large scale natural disasters. Humans can never predict when and how natural disaster will occur. In the pocket paperback bunko edition of his novel that appeared after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995), Komatsu wrote that at this time we have come to realize that if a big disaster strikes, political agencies and government are powerless to deal with it. His words then also foreshadowed what happened in the 2011 East Japan earthquake and tsunami. In this paper I will re-examine the messages Komatsu has for readers today. I argue that in this novel Komatsu wants to emphasize the tremendous importance of the role of the government in protecting its people, especially when there is a big scale of natural disaster. But of course the people themselves must also prepare themselves. In addition, since natural disasters and the sustainability of human life are global issues, international cooperation also plays an important role. Humans cannot resist the will of nature, but they must learn to adapt and live together with their natural environment

This panel is on Monday - Session 01 - Room 1

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