Aaron Gerow gerow at
Tue Jul 27 02:29:54 EDT 1999

Glad to see that the Satchi affair has produced such long, thought-out, 
and downright juicy responses.  Don't have time to be juicy myself, but I 
think there are some basic issues that need review.

Peter wrote,

>What I would like to posit here is possibility that there is no subjective 
>or "willing" 
>element to be found, rather that at some refined meta-level "real" events 
>and their 
>representation in the media interact according to certain 
>naturally-arising patterns and 
>that they produce "products" (incidents, scandals etc) which send out 
>ripples through both 

Actually, this is basically the definition of power we see dominating 
much cultural studies since Foucault and, as a postscript, was in some 
ways the definition I was trying to invoke when discussing wideshows and 
power.  It would be amusing to think Obuchi is calling up the wideshow 
producers and telling them to attack Satchi, but no one seriously 
believes that.  We can, however, consider the question of power without 
having to think of subjects wielding it for specific purposes.  Power can 
create subjects, mold behavior, etc. through various technologies and 
apparatuses, but no one need be at the wheel.

Basically, this is the view of subjectivity since structuralism, and 
especially with Peter's "ur-stories," it struck me that Peter is offering 
us a good and specific example of a structuralist analysis of modern 
Japanese culture.  Here people do not make (speak) structures, they are 
made ("spoken") by them.  

But while I think Peter's ur-stories have a lot of promise and can be 
utilized quite fruitfully, I wonder if we should be wary of such stories 
for the same reason there were problems with structuralism.  There is the 
tendency to see them as "natural," which often leads to a kind of 
functionalism; they become "defined" (often though a central binarism) in 
ways that occlude the fissures and deferrences of signification; they 
focus on texts and signification at the expense of reading; they tend to 
write out the messiness of historical moments in favor of longue durees; 
etc. (others can add to the list).

My references to the issue of power in this discussion have mostly been 
in relation to a continuing concern of mine: the relation of text and 
reception in signification within historical contexts interlaced by power 
concerns.  A central question of power is whether or not a text like a 
wide show has the authority to enforce "its" meanings or ideologies on 
its viewers/readers.  Much poststructuralist work on reception has 
focused on how readers have the power to resist and rewrite the 
ideologicical structures contained in the text.  This, to put it 
simplistically, is the vision of a free and often critical reader.  Since 
Michael seemed to be invoking such a reader in his note, I cited the 
theoretical basis while also warning that we have to recognize that there 
are many elements in popular culture which work to train readers/viewers 
to receive texts "the way they should."  When they do that, they are in 
effect in the power of the text.  Of course, no one need be "at the 
wheels" controlling the texts for a purpose (though moments like war make 
this more possible), but there is still a power relationship being 
created (and not just by textual producers: by subjecting themselves to 
the power of the text, readers create certain pleasing forms of 

My central question then had less to do with who was "using" these texts 
for what purpose, but rather with how we should theorize cultural 
signification in Japan in terms of power.  This does relate to issues of 
politics, industry, gender, class, nation, economy, etc., but not always 
in direct ways.  The Satchi affair is not being used by any to divert the 
Japanese people away from the Japanese Diet debates.  Rather, what I fear 
is that certain historical practices regarding signification, 
intersecting with structures of textual power, mold subjects who 
precisely don't have as much "freedom" to read as some scholars hope.  
Such subjects also end up being those who are less critical of political 
texts, which is one way these issues of signification also relate to the 
political field.

Again, these are issues I am still working on, but I still wonder what 
people do think of the the intersecting issues of power, signification, 
and reception within Japanese popular image culture.

Aaron Gerow

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