Guilt, Nostalgia, and Victimhood: Korea in the Japanese Theatrical Imagination

Looks like a very interesting talk at the Japan Foundation on 1 December. Of course, it has to clash with something equally as compelling: a rare screening of Kim Ki-young’s Insect Woman at the KCC.

Japan Foundation logoThe Japan Foundation hosts:

Guilt, Nostalgia, and Victimhood: Korea in the Japanese Theatrical Imagination

Speaker: Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei (UCLA)

How has post-war Japanese theatre grappled with Japanese responsibility for Japan’s imperialistic / militaristic past in Asia, and for institutionalized discrimination against resident minorities? Using the tools of guilt, nostalgia, and the valorisation of victimhood that are embedded in the idea of hōganbiiki [“sympathy for the loser / victims”], the paper analyses Japan’s often contradictory, flip-flopping self-image as both victimizer and victim in relation to Korea and resident Koreans (zainichi). Looking at both mainstream and alternative performances, the paper suggests that despite attempts to openly discuss these issues, most theatre artists actually present images that soften or displace responsibility for the past.

Productions analysed will be chosen from among the following: Satoh Makoto’s My Beatles, a meta-theatrical work interrogating guilt due to the Komatsugawa Incident, in which a young Zainichi Korean was hanged for the rape and murder of a Japanese girl; Miyagi Satoshi’s Medea, about a Korean comfort-woman shaman who takes revenge on Japanese imperialists; Zainichi playwright Chong Wishing’s A Legend of Mermaids, an anti-nostalgic, politically complex view of Zainichi marginalization; Hirata Oriza’s Citizens of Seoul, an oblique critique of Japanese colonial mentality; Tsutsumi Harue’s Destination Japan, which considers the legal case that ended fingerprinting of resident minorities; and Kaneshita Tatsuo’s Ice Blossoms, a mythic re-imagining of Korean assassin / freedom fighter An Chung-gun’s final days in 1909. Non-standard performances include the 2000 Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal dealing with so-called comfort women, and the underground productions of the radical lesbian collective Kegawa-zoku (Fur Tribe).

Professor Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei is a specialist in Japanese theatre and intercultural performance, as well as a playwright and director. Her book Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan (University of Hawaii, 2005) analyses the complex work of playwright / director / filmmaker Terayama in cultural / historical context, and includes translations of his plays and theory. She is co-author with Phillip Zarrilli, Bruce McConachie and Gary Jay Williams of Theatre Histories: An Introduction (Routledge, second edition 2010). Articles on Japanese performance, intercultural theatre, and fusion theatre as well as book and play reviews appear in various journals, books and encyclopaedias. Her translations from Japanese appear in Asian Theatre Journal and Half a Century of Japanese Theatre. She has presented over one hundred papers at conferences throughout the world, and has written fifteen original plays include the award-winning Medea: A Noh Cycle Based on the Greek Myth.

This event is organised by the Asian Performing Arts Forum.

Professor Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei is a specialist in Japanese theatre and intercultural performance, as well as a playwright and director.

Date: 1 December 2011 from 6.30pm
Venue: The Japan Foundation, 6th Floor, Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5EH

This is a free event, but booking by e-mail is essential – please e-mail your name to event@jpf.org.uk, mentioning ‘Sorgenfrei’ in the subject header.

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