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Invisible Others: Buraku and the Japanese Literature


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Kavedžija, Iza. (2008). Invisible Others: Buraku and the Japanese Literature. Etnološka tribina, 38(31). pp. 81-91. ISSN 0351-1944

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Although Japan is represented as a homogenous society in the dominant public discourse, it includes several significant minority communities. One of these is the buraku or hisabetsu burakumin, a social group historically constituted by the members of certain professions considered 'impure', and who are still today often discriminated against on the basis of their origin (Dore 1968, Neary 2003). Furthermore, as their existence as a distinct social group is denied, they are rendered voiceless; as Mary Douglas (1992) points out, denying the existence of such a stigma only allows the favoured members of the community to feel comfortable, while making the stigmatized invisible. This article explores the issue of the representation of the burakumin in Japanese literature. While taking as a point of departure the question of whether the neglect of the burakumin should be understood in the wider context of the dominant narrative of Japanese homogeneity, it is argued that the volume of the work both about and by the burakumin indicates that this is not the most important question. Instead, the article raises the question of the adequacy of representations of minority groups in literature and relates it to the anthropological perspective on issues of representation – is it ever possible to represent "others" and, particularly, is it possible to represent them without further "othering" them? These issues are not unfamiliar to anthopology as a self-reflexive discipline. The author shows that the kind of account produced in literary work may even have some advantages over classical ethnographical accounts in that they are not focused on generalizations. The problems mentioned are contextualized using Abe Kobo's "The Woman in the Dunes" (1980). Finally, the author raises the issue of the role of literature in changing the status of minorities.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: representation of 'others', literature, minorities, JapanM, buraku
Subjects: Ethnology and cultural anthropology
Japanese studies
Departments: Department of Sociology
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2017 11:08
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:08

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