Gendered high and low culture in Japan

The transgressing flesh in Kawabata’s dance writing

Authored by: Fusako Innami

The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138895201
eBook ISBN: 9781315179582
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter aims to develop an approach to the gendered cultures that may be hierarchically valued as “high” or “low” by focusing on the body as a medium of expression. I argue for the possibility of the embodied experience being employed as a way to perform the “other” and transgress cultural, class, and hierarchical boundaries. The chapter addresses questions such as how the body affects the cultural evaluation of its art as high or low and how, intersecting with the observer’s imagination, it informs gender configuration. I first discuss the hierarchies of “high” and “low” in relation to cultural multiplicities observed in urban space, with a particular attention to dance, and then undertake a case study of Kawabata Yasunari’s dance-related writing. While Kawabata depicts gendered dancing bodies with connotations of class and social status, it is through the body and embodied experiences that he shows the possibility of unfixing divisions. Given his attempt to value dance equally with music, fine art, and literature, I also aim to balance our visually and verbally centred manners of understanding cultures by focusing on dance as an effective instrument for examining gender performativity and the reconfiguration of the body.

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