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Reading Nakagami Kenji's Subaltern Burakumin Narratives Through The Perspective Of The Omina (Old Woman)


Ishikawa, M, Reading Nakagami Kenji's Subaltern Burakumin Narratives Through The Perspective Of The Omina (Old Woman), Japan Sudies Association Journal, 11 pp. 158-178. ISSN 1530-3527 (2013) [Refereed Article]

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The aim of my paper is to provide a reading of Sen'nen no yuraku (1982, A Thousand Years of Pleasure) by NakagamiKenji (1946-1992) that draws on the tradition of the "old woman" (omina) as story-teller in monogatari Japanese narrative. Nakagami was born in 1946 in one of the outcaste Burakumin districts in the Kumano region, Wakayama Prefecture. Nakagami's Burakumin narratives emerged from his interpretation oflocal oral folklore and the historical oppression of Kumano by the hegemonic centre.

Through the production of narrative about the "silenced" outcaste community, Nakagami mounted a critique of the mainstream exclusionist ideology based on binary opposites which scaffolds discrimination against the Burakumin. His view resonates with that of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak as argued in her essay collection entitled A Critique of Postcolonial Reason ( 1996). I will use this essay as a key text to discuss Nakagami's literary representation of the silenced voice of the marginalised.

In his note on Japanese narrative tradition, Nakagami explains that the primitive state of monogatari is oral and narrated by omina, the old woman. In my analysis of Nakagami's idea of monogatari, specific attention will be given to the chapter entitled "Enchi Fumiko" (1985) in the essay "Monogatari no keifu" (1979-1985, The Genealogy of Narrative). Referring to Nakagami's view of the tradition of monogatari as female narrating, especially narration by the old woman, I will examine Sen'nen no yuraku as a variation of the primitive state of monogatari narrated by omina. I will also draw on Spivak's discussion of the "(foreclosed) native informant" to consider how Nakagami presents the omina's perspective as the trace of the marginalised subaltern in Japan.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Other human society
Research Field:Studies of Asian society
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:Literature
UTAS Author:Ishikawa, M (Ms Machiko Ishikawa)
ID Code:90861
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2014-04-29
Last Modified:2014-05-02

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