Nakagami Kenji's 'Writing Back to the Centre' through the Subaltern Narrative: Reading the Hidden Outcast Voice in 'Misaki' and Karekinada
Ishikawa, M, Nakagami Kenji's 'Writing Back to the Centre' through the Subaltern Narrative: Reading the Hidden Outcast Voice in 'Misaki' and Karekinada, New Voices, 5, (Dec) pp. 1-24. ISSN 1833-5233 (2011) [Refereed Article]
The aim of this thesis is to give a post-colonial reading of selected narratives by Nakagami Kenji
(1946-1992). Nakagami was the first Akutagawa Prize winning novelist from Japan’s outcaste
Burakumin group. Through the production of narrative about this subaltern community,
Nakagami confronted the exclusionary systems of hegemonic Japanese thought and the
structures created by these systems which deny the principle and lived experience of ‘difference’.
Borrowing the post-colonial concept of ‘writing back’ to the hegemonic centre from the work of
Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin’s The Empire Writes Back, this article will analyse
Nakagami’s ‘Misaki’ (1976, The Cape), and its sequel, Karekinada (1977, The Sea of Withered
Trees). The principal focus will be on Nakagami’s representation of the hidden voice of those on
the margins of Japanese society.
This approach will position the Burakumin as ‘subalterns’ to the mainstream
Japanese society on the basis of Antonio Gramsci’s view of the group. The analysis of ‘Misaki’
and Karekinada will begin with an investigation of Kishû Kumano as a site on the margins of
mainstream Japanese society. In analysing these two novels as subaltern narratives, close attention
will be given to Nakagami’s use of intertextuality particularly with oral kishu ryûritan folklore.