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Society / Culture

Assembling Japan: Modernity, Technology and Global Culture

(Peter Lang 2015)

Griseldis Kirsch, Dolores P. Martinez and Merry I. White

When Japan rose to economic prominence in the 1970s and approached global economic dominance by the mid-1980s, theories about the unique nature of Japanese culture gained popularity. Such nihonjinron narratives attempted to explain the country’s success to the rest of the world and to enable its citizens to better understand the rapid transformation they had lived through. Japan was presented as an inscrutable, exotic place difficult for outsiders to comprehend.
This book takes issue with that view. Edited by Griseldis Kirsch, Dolores P. Martinez, and Merry White, its chapters address popular culture, food, travel, economics, cultural politics, and technical innovation to explain the nature and structure of Japan’s interaction with the West and Asia.
The discussions range widely across such seemingly unconnected topics as coffee, air travel, film, television, music, football, robots, Japanese business practices in Hong Kong, and indigenous rights movements in Japan. Each chapter offers a different but equally interesting view, the editors deconstructing the assumptions that underpin their own knowledge of the country and reassembling that knowledge to create a different picture. Because Japan today is fundamentally part of global processes that have influenced contemporary social discourse within and about the nation, their arguments address the tensions, synergies, and dynamism that have informed the waves of modernity and globalization that have buffeted the country since the Meiji period. Their work is an important tool for understanding the complexity of modern Japan, but the nature of the Japan that emerges from each chapter is, ultimately, for the reader to decide.

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