Zen and 'cultural studies' group-think

Michael Badzik mike
Sat Sep 4 01:44:20 EDT 1999

While I have been enjoying the responses to the "Zen" thread, and really do

not wish to disturb the interesting discussion going on about religion and 
film in Japan, there is another aspect of the original message that 
deserves comment.

Craig Sisman wrote:
>Over the months however I have become less naive about the list and the
>interests of its members. A tendency which I have detected is that to
>express an interest in Zen or traditional Japanese culture is seen as
>'orientalist' whereas to express an interest  in contemporary Japanese
>popular culture (such as 'the Peruvian Donkey from Hokkaido') is seen as
>'politically correct'.
>One of the delights of contemporary Japanese culture is the co-existence
>the old and the new. It  is a shame that the 'cultural studies'
>which is so prevalent on the list seems to marginalise traditional aspects
>of Japanese culture in its valorisation of populist cultural forms...

Do we really have good enough statistics to make generalizations about 
the interests of the list members? I did a quick breakdown of 1370 
KineJapan messages covering a span of roughly the last twelve months, and 
found the following:

1.  There were 216 different authors. List membership was last reported 
as 331.

2.  There were 76 people who wrote just once, 36 wrote twice, 22 three 
times, 19 four times, 35 wrote from 5-10 times, and only 28 wrote more 
than ten times.

Can we really stereotype list members when 1 in 3 never offered up any 
opinion, and roughly only one in five has written at least five times? Or 
where less than one in three has written *anything* more than two 
times. Are we to say that silence is the same as agreement? (Just 
writing this brings up bad memories of Spiro Agnew's "Silent Majority" 

Craig, if you think that the list members hold no interest in traditional 
culture, try posing a question about Kabuki and the development of acting 
styles, the diary writings of classical literature and their effect on film

style, or the influence of traditional puppetry on Japanese animation. I'll

bet that your mail tray will overflow with replies, or at least you will 
hear from many of the low percentage who do write occasionally.

I for one would not mind seeing a good essay on Zen and Japanese film. 
As it is, I can tell you a lot more about the influence of Christianity on 
Japanese film (and television) than I can about Buddhism. I don't know 
what to make of this fact, either.

Michael Badzik
mike at vena.com

More information about the KineJapan mailing list