Archive | November, 2013

Some interesting quotes from Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s “Borderline Japan”

9 Nov

The Brazilian (nikkeijin) presence in Japan “has helped to destabilize widely accepted but simplistic notions of the equivalence of ethnic ancestry, culture and identity.” (p. 242). 

“Since there are no public figures on population by ethnicity in Japan, the half a million or so people of Korean descent who have Japanese nationality, whatever they may feel about their own identity, become statistically invisible, and also regularly written out of general statements about ‘Japanese nationals’, whether made by the Japanese government or its critics. Though the term ‘Korean-Japanese’ has begun to be more widely used by the media and by some ‘Korean-Japanese’ themselves, this term (it seems)  has not yet acquired the power to decouple the assumed equivalence of ethnicity, identity and nationality that underlies political discourse in Japan today. The same invisibility even more effectively shrouds the presence of Taiwanese in Japanese society. The normalization Japan’s relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972, following US president Richard Nixon’s unexpected visit to China, caused concern and confusion in Japan’s Taiwanese community, and persuaded many Zainichi Taiwanese in Japan to become Japanese citizens. Throughout the 1960s, the figures for naturalizations by ‘Chinese’ (which included Taiwanese) had been running at less that [sic] four hundred a year, but in the three years from 1972 this jumped to an annual average of almost four thousand.” (242-43). 

“The reintroduction of fingerprinting was, of course, part of an international push to tighten border controls…In Japan, high-tech and high-profile anti-terrorist border checks have been brought in despite the fact that the only terrorist acts carried out in the country in the past two decades have been by home-grown terrorists, and most indeed have been carried out by members of right-wing nationalist organizations.” (246)

Discussions of border security are “conducted in a quintessentially national, and sometimes nationalistic, framework….The focus is on the relationship between migrants and the nation state.” (246).


Can open economic borders break down national ones?

7 Nov

An interesting question posed by Aihwa Ong is that the close economic ties between mainland China and countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong is creating a scenario where, regardless of whether these countries are officially or politically united with China, their fates are so intertwined with the mainland that they may as well have become unified (as China seeks to do). It is undoubtedly a great example of pragmatic accomplishment: “you can say you are a separate country as much as you like, but our economic links will eventually lead to unification.” See the excerpt below.

“The Chinese axis is also an imaginary line of cultural sovereignty that runs along an ideological plane of the graduated geopolitical field. As technological and commercial networks and economic zones increasingly articulate along a Chinese axis, we see an emerging political archipelago that suggests the wider possibilities of an ‘imagined community.’ This loose alliance suggests a regional patterning anchored in China that is very different from Western discourses of regionalism such as the ‘Pacific Rim.’ Instead, regional narrative increasingly invoke ‘East Asia,’ a rhetorical term that signals the growing connections between the Sinic parts of Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines) with Taiwan, the Hong Kong SAR, and mainland China. For instance, overseas Chinese scholars have invoked a confluence of histories, languages, cultural, and kinship practices among widely dispersed sites to define an emerging field of Sino-Southeast Asian studies. Despite ongoing political tensions and opposition to Beijing leaders, ethnic Chinese in the Asia-Pacific take great cultural pride in the emergence of China as a global actor. The imagined axis also creates an ideological sphere of exception within the Asia-Pacific, marking off a space of rising China-centric hegemony. The Sinocentric discourses, further enhanced by the mainland and Hong Kong popular media, are growing even as the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China remain in a standoff. Meanwhile, the economic integration between Taiwan and the mainland, especially in Fujian Province, Shanghai, and the Yangtze Valley, is so advanced that a de facto absorption has taken place even before a formal political integration has begun. Thus, the emergence of a Chinese axis is based on Beijing’s very distinctive deployment of zoning technologies, which lay the groundwork for transnational market integration, making intelligible the political and cultural goals of variegated sovereignty in formation. As technologies of ruling, zoning mechanisms become an economic detour leading to broader political integration. It is therefore not unthinkable that the logic of the exception and zoning technologies have shown a path toward the reunification of divided nations.”

Ong, Aihwa. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2006, 115-116.

ViKi: The Triumph of Korea…and multilingual anglophones?

6 Nov

ViKi is a portmanteau of the words “video” and “wiki.” Unlike other fan-subbing sites, ViKi uses an advanced web-translation system along any website user to provide subs, even if only a few lines. Not only that: it also allows access to a great number of potential translations. The site currently “supports subtitles in more than 100 languages,” according to A program’s subbing can be completed within only a couple of hours of its broadcast (although this can be in violation of copyright law in many countries). The show Boys over Flowers for example was,

“within only 20 hours of its actual broadcast [in Korea]…translated into 25 different languages. It seems that the entire episode was translated into English in one hour. Then from English into all different languages, it took about 20 hours” (Sun Jung “K-Pop beyond Asia:  Performing Trans-Nationality, Trans-Sexuality, and Trans-Textuality,” in Asian Popular Culture in Transition, ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons and John A. Lent Routledge: 2013; 119, 108-130 ).

Being a wiki, ViKi does not have a leader delegating roles to subbers like most subbing sites. Anyone can contribute and evaluate translations and their quality. Users can seek clarification of unfamiliar idioms and receive various replies, which others may in turn correct or supplement.

A visit to the site’s Facebook page contains over five million “likes” and comments in multitudes of different languages like a giant electronic tower of Babel.

So who’s watching?

“In 2011, the most popular content on ViKi are Korean television dramas and Mandarin-speaking (including Taiwanese and Chinese) television dramas. The largest user group are English speakers, followed by Mandarin-, Spanish-, Vietnamese-, Filipino- (Tagalog), and Korean-speaking users. According to Ho [one of the site’s co-founders], many of the Vietnamese users are based in the USA, and they are one of the most actively participating user groups. Also significant is the fact that 25 percent of ViKi users are Caucasian North Americans. Ho explains: ‘85% of ViKi’s traffic comes from English-speaking countries such as the US, Canada, Singapore, UK, Australia, and the Philippines. Among them, the US traffic takes the biggest share (50%). According to Quantcast, a third party traffic anlytics provider, 43% of ViKi’s US users are ethnically Caucasian while only 38% are Asian Americans” (ibid.).