12 December 2013

Book Review: Packaged Japaneseness

Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni is a professor at Tel Aviv University in the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology and East Asian Studies. She wrote this book at the beginning of her career.

Now, this is not really an LGBT book. This is more about how compulsory heterosexuality functions at the most practical levels in Japan. However, I thought I'd mention it here since with the exception of India and Australia, there seems to be developments in same-sex marriage elsewhere -- including the U.S. Embassy in Manila announcing that they have started processing fiance visas for American citizens with same-sex partners.

As some may be familar, the entire process of a funeral in Japan is arranged and organized by funeral parlors that are run by "mutual benefit" associations or by corporations that were once "mutual benefit" associations. What is considered a traditional Japanese funeral today can be wholly unrecognizable before 1900. In fact, cremation was banned for a while during the Meiji period. In any event, I mention all of this because apparently what is considered to be a "traditional" Japanese wedding follows the same lines. Everyone was married in their village usually when the first child was born or when the husband's father retired from active life, etc.,.

But after World War II, there was a dramatic shift and the funeral parlor people started getting into the wedding business. I don't know how it is today, but as of the mid-1990s, the traditional Japanese wedding had developed a pretty standard protocol. Goldstein-Gidoni goes into this protocol with great detail and some humor. Because of my own interests in diasporic Japanese cultural practices, I found her extended discussions on the makings of "tradition" and cultural production to be highly relevant and useful to me.

And then on a more practical level, it made me think of exactly what the ritual of wedding will look like in my own life. What archetypes will be propitiated? What is the meaning of a wedding? What symbolic values will constellate? I guess this may have always been unconsciously one of my reasons to oppose marriage in general previously.

Her explanations and theoretical discussions were not too dry or academic and easy to relate to other ethnicities and cultures on a more abstract, theoretical level.

The version I read was in English at 216 pages in paper published by the University of Hawai'i Press (June 1997) with an ISBN-10 of 0824819551. The least expensive version I found online was at amazon.com

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