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Nakagami Kenji : paradox and the representation of the silenced voice

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Ishikawa, M (2015) Nakagami Kenji : paradox and the representation of the silenced voice. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

How does a writer represent the voice of the voiceless? This is the primary
question in my reading of Burakumin writer, Nakagami Kenji (1946-1992). My project
explores Nakagami's representation of the voices of voiceless (mukoku) people - especially
Burakumin people - who are oppressed by mainstream Japanese social structures. Nakagami
was always conscious of the fact that, in spite of his own background, his privilege as a writer
made it difficult for him to 'represent' the voices of the dispossessed. This 'paradox of
representing the silenced voice' is the key theme of my thesis. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
theorises the (im)possibility of representing the voice of 'subalterns,' those oppressed by
ideologies such as imperialism, patriarchy and heteronormativity. Arguing that the oppressed
Burakumin peoples depicted in Nakagami's narratives are Japan's 'subalterns,' I draw on
Spivak to analyse Nakagami's material. There is no other study, in either Japanese or English
that reads Nakagami through Spivak's ground-breaking ideas. Spivak's work reveals and
transcends the complicity of Western (Northern, in Gramsci' s terms) intellectuals in the
suppression of the non-West (or South). I argue that Nakagami similarly interrogates the
relationship between mainstream and marginalised in Japan. Nakagami's narratives have a
strong geopolitical perspective that reveals the 'otherness' of his birthplace, Kumano.
Nakagami identifies Kumano as Japan's marginalised 'South.'
I am particularly interested in drawing on Spivak, and theorists such as Butler and
Sedgwick, to profile Nakagami's depiction of marginalised Japanese women, especially
Burakumin women. I wish to help readers hear the voices of these women who are often
violated sexually by the men given a profile in much Nakagami scholarship. Firstly, I will
revisit the voices of key male characters, and the voice of Nakagami himself, in order better
to understand the role these men play in suppressing women's stories. Through reviewing
conflicts between masculine pairs, especially the father and son, I will note how misogynistic
homosocial practices silence the voices of the women associated with these males.
The analysis references a selection of both well-known and little read Nakagami
narratives. Chapter One examines the 1978 travel journal, Kishu: ki no kuni, ne no kuni
monogatari (Kishu: A Tale of the Country of Trees, the Country of Roots), as an early
representation of the silenced Kumano Burakumin voice. Chapter Two focuses on the 1976
short story, 'Rakudo' (Paradise) little discussed in existing scholarship, to explore the
depiction of the voice of a violent young patriarch and the defiance expressed by the silence of his wife. Chapter Three considers Nakagami's masterpiece, the Akiyuki trilogy. Rather
than the better known 1976 and 1977 works, 'Misaki' (The Cape) and Kareki nada (The Sea
of Withered Trees), close attention is given to Chi no hate shijo no toki (1983, The End of the
'
Earth, Supreme Time), written after Nakagami's declaration of his Burakumin background.
The second half of the thesis focuses directly on the rarely heard voices of
Burakumin women. I profile these women as independent subjects, rather than objects of
male interaction. Chapters Four and Five introduce women from the Akiyuki trilogy. Satoko,
the prostitute who unknowingly commits incest with her half-brother, Akiyuki, becomes a
pawn in the power struggle between her father and half-brother. The aged 'oldest sister,' Yuki,
sacrificed her youth in a brothel to feed her father-less family. Moyo remains traumatised by
the rape that resulted in the conception of her now adult son. Nakagami's most celebrated
woman character, Oryu no oba, the mid-wife and community mother of the buraku
community, from Sen 'nen no yuraku (1982, A Thousand Years of Pleasure), is also discussed
to support my interpretation of Burakumin women. Finally, I examine the writer's last
published novel, Keibetsu (1992, Scorn), with its account of the Tokyo topless dancer,
Machiko, who migrates to her husband's rural 'hometown' where she is oppressed and
branded as immoral by the gaze of her partner's community. My close reading ofNakagami's
representation of the voice of these sexually stigmatised women is my unique contribution to
Nakagami scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Japanese, literature, subaltern, outcaste, Burakumin, oral folklore, postcolonialism
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2015 the Author

Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2016 03:41
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 16:00
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