Inter-Asia Cultural Typhoon 2009

Undergraduate, ICU

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the twelfth issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

Inter-Asia Cultural Typhoon 2009 was held at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies from July 3 to 5. This year, it was a joint conference with Inter-Asia Cultural Studies that was attended by participants from around the world. Numerous panels and presentations covered diverse topics under the sub-theme "Globalization and Its Fault-Lines: Beyond Poverty, Surveillance, and Censorship." The conference venue was filled with artworks ranging from paintings and clothes to motion videos, and people also gathered outside at the food stalls and music performances. In addition to all the energy and excitement was the tension that is unique to international conferences, and it was clear that a great deal of effort and preparation had been put into this major event. The conference had a scope that transcended national boundaries, and its participants came from diverse backgrounds, in nationality, race, region, class, ethnicity, sex/gender, religion, and disability. This highlighted the growing need to consider diversity and to recognize differences among us, both as a significant perspective in academic debate as well as for self-reflection.

Pursuing my interest in perspectives of gender and sexuality, I attended presentations on topics such as the application of gender/ sexuality theories to the analysis of bodily expressions in art. One presenter talked about the relationship between self-inflicted injury by women and the wounds depicted in artworks. Through an analysis of photographs, she explored the limitations and regulations of gender in our society, concluding that the body is a space where gender, sexuality, and other differences are deeply inscribed. She made me see that it was possible to interpret such wounded and degraded bodies as something positive. While they have tended to be viewed in a negative light, by depicting them as works of art, one is able to read them in more diverse ways. In fact, this is exactly what cultural politics is about. Particularly since it dealt with the female body, the presentation highlighted the need to incorporate gender and sexuality perspectives in considering the politics of culture.
Finally, it is interesting to note that almost all the gender- or sexuality-related presentations were given in English. Perhaps this was because many presenters were academics based overseas, and even those academics based in Japan seemed to have prepared their presentations for a foreign audience. I believe that this reflected the fact that there is not much interest in gender and sexuality issues among scholars of cultural studies in Japan. However, the international presentations at this conference would most certainly have helped raise awareness about gender and sexuality in Japanese academia. The presentations from Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example, showed the interdisciplinary cooperation among scholars there, where gender/queer/feminist studies join forces with cultural studies to effect change. So what can we learn from them? What changes are needed? I believe that what we need is to develop a curriculum and system for gender studies that is not limited to a single discipline but is open to diverse peoples, perspectives and fields of study.