Constructing the Cultural Public Sphere of and Beyond Japan: Fluidity and Dynamics in East Asia

Title: 1258 | Constructing the Cultural Public Sphere of and Beyond Japan: Fluidity and Dynamics in East Asia
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Tiantian Diao, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, presenter)
Nalanda Robson, Monash University, Australia (presenter)
Minhyeok Kwon, Korea University, South Korea (presenter)
Fenju Wang, Nankai University, China (presenter)
Chikara Uchida, The University of Tokyo, Japan (discussant)
Yijiang Zhong, The University of Tokyo, Japan (chair)


Jürgen Habermas highlighted the development of bourgeois public spheres, which refers to a mediating domain between private and public authorities that emerged in eighteenth-century Europe. To account for increasingly complicated social realities, McGuigan proposes the idea of the cultural public sphere, referring to articulation of politics, public and personal terrains through effective modes of communication. The construction of the cultural public sphere can be a by-product generated by the political policies’ adoption, the commercial imperatives of organizations, the public’s motivation to improve personal lives, or the interaction of the above-mentioned factors. The existing research focuses more on the cultural public sphere constructed through the flow of Japanese popular culture.

In order to expand the discussion and underscore the dynamic cultural public sphere’s construction of, and beyond Japan, this panel brings together four papers. Nalanda’s study sheds light on how the modern culture of caring for the elderly in Japanese hospitals is being transferred to reform Thailand’s rehabilitation model through cross-border adoption and adaptation of policies. Minhyeok’s paper combines literature and tourism studies and elaborates on the cultural public sphere’s establishment at the Kamakura literary museum in Japan. The other two papers probe the dynamics of the Japan-related cultural public sphere in China. Fenju’s paper is located in a historical and colonial context and explores the intentional creation of the cultural public sphere on the Hainan Island by Japanese settlers during wartime. Tiantian examines the popularization of the “Japan-narrative” in the mediatized cultural public sphere in liberal-oriented Chinese newspapers.

Panel Abstracts:
Popularizing “Japan-narrative” (riben xushi) in Mediatized Cultural Public Sphere in China:2009-2015
Habermas perceives the practice of journalism assists to accumulate the attention for the political public sphere. With the development of mass media, there is the proliferating publication on literary critiques, art reviews, and lifestyle around the world. In the meantime, cultural journalism also becomes a growing subfield in journalism studies. Chinese media also increasingly produced coverage of diversified topics about Japan on cultural news pages. This research closely examines how the Japan-related topics became dominant in the cultural public sphere on the liberal-oriented commercial newspapers, the Beijing News, Oriental Morning Post, and Southern Metropolis Daily, between 2009 and 2015. This study utilizes mixed methods, including news content analysis, in-depth interviews with the news producers, and text analysis for newspapers’ internal publications. This research demonstrates that journalists popularize the “Japan-narrative” in the mediatized cultural public sphere through their practice of cultural journalism in the three newspapers. It also finds out that the establishment of the cultural news supplement section was initially driven by newspapers’ commercial imperatives to increase heterogeneity in news content to compete with the other newspaper peers. During the news production phrase, reporters select the topics that resonate Chinese public’s interests in Japan, including China’s nationalistic sentiment toward Japan, Sino-Japanese historical issues, the popular Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, and the Japanese lifestyle. The selection of these topics relates to the contestation between propaganda logic, market logic, and the limited journalistic professional logic that plays out in the Chinese media system in general since the media commercialization in 1978.

Japan-Thai Collaboration to Addressing the Challenges of Ageing Society: Exploring the Role of Cultural Public Sphere in Policy Transfer
The ageing of the human population is a global phenomenon that sees Asia ageing fastest in the world. Thailand too will be acutely affected in terms of the scale and speed of this process. By the year 2025, Thailand is likely to feel the full force of a rapidly declining population, facing issues of labour shortages, poverty and shrinking resources. In order to take optimal advantage of the next two decades, Thailand will probably have to look towards its more ‘senior’ Asian neighbour, Japan. Theoretically grounded in the works of Dolowitz, Evans and Marsh, the research attempts at mapping the movements of ideas and knowledge in the form of social policies and programmes between Japan and Thailand. Using ‘policy transfer’ as a framework, the study inquiries into how Japanese knowledge is used as a public good to solve common challenges in the context of an ageing population. The study will conduct ethnographic interviews to analyse the case study of JICA and the transfer of the ‘S-TOP’ rehabilitation model to Ratchaphiphat hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. It observes not only the logistical techniques of implementing the program but also the cultural aspects in appropriating the program to fit Thai culture. The paper studies the dynamics of Thai-Japan relations and the cultural public sphere that is born from transnational cooperation. The findings assist in setting the domestic agendas for Thailand’s adjustment to its ageing population, where research in this area is preliminary and official governmental response is just beginning to take shape.

Rediscovering Cultural Public Sphere as Tourism Contents: The Case of Kamakura Literary Museum
Local governments often built literary museums for various reasons in Japan, they usually serve three functions: as a museum, as a library, and as a literary archive. In agreement with this, the literary museum in recent years also plays an important role in turning literature into the “tourism contents”, which enable people to enjoy literature in an innovative way by actively engaging them in various tourism activities. The literary museums brought literary works to life, where the text itself can be experienced outside of the book in which enjoyment was previously only limited to the reading experiences. As such, literary museums are becoming essential “cultural space” where people utilize tourism content to experience literature. Tourists who come from outside of Japan can learn about Japanese literature through these tourism contents, which also serves as an opportunity for visitors to bring back the new ideas of Japanese culture to their own countries. In other words, literary museums also assist in expanding Japanese culture by integrating Japanese literature into their tourism contents when constructing the cultural public sphere. This paper presents initial findings from a research project that involves an analysis of how the Kamakura Literary Museum constructs the cultural public sphere by providing experiential activities to tourists. By combing fieldwork and literary text analysis, this research investigates what kind of tourism programs are being held in the literary museum, and it will demonstrate the significance of literary museums as a means for constructing the cultural public sphere of Japan dynamically.

The Cultural Public Sphere Construction of Japanese Settlers on Hainan Island during the Occupation Period: 1939-1945
From February 10, 1939 to August 15, 1945, during the Japanese occupation of Hainan Island, Hainan has played an important role as a Japanese military base, southward advance base, and resource base. At the same time, with the development of the war situation, the number of Japanese settlers living on Hainan Island had continued to increase, reaching a maximum of over 17,000. The Japanese settlers established groups such as the Settlers’ Association, Cultural Association of Hainan, Yizan Youth Group, and Women’s Association, built public facilities such as shrines, national schools, and libraries, organized cultural activities such as spiritualism, remote worship, haiku gathering, and tanka gathering. The cultural public spheres with Japanese culture as the major body was constructed among the settlers in the occupied areas. In the historical context at that time, the settlers were the main participants of the rule by Japan. The process of establishing cultural public spheres by settlers had a distinct colour of wartime domination. This research will demonstrate how national ideology was regarded as an important criterion, and the construction, operation and management of the cultural public spheres were directly subject to administrative control. This study finds out that the cultural public spheres constructed by the settlers presented corresponding diachronic and regional characteristics; in accordance with the change in occupation goals and dominant power. In addition, the process of its integration with the original cultural system on the island also showed evident cultural expansion during the wartime

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