This October, two of my articles have been published within peer-reviewed journals. They were quite interesting (and at times difficult) papers to write, since they were published within disciplinary journals somewhat outside my primary training as a cultural anthropologist of Japan. That being said, I truly enjoyed engaging with colleagues within the disciplines of human geography and socio-linguistics, and found that publishing within these venues broadened my critical thinking and encouraged me to think through my data in new and exciting ways.
The first article, “Constructing identities on a Japanese gay dating site: Hunkiness, cuteness and the desire for heteronormative masculinity,” was published within the Journal of Language and Sexuality. Here is the abstract:
By analysing 200 posts on a Japanese gay dating Bulletin Board System (deai-kei BBS), I investigate how users strategically deploy language to construct desirable identities and “sell themselves” online. Drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative analysis, I demonstrate that users of the BBS creatively manipulate stereotypical identity categories known as Types (taipu) to construct highly nuanced yet specific discourses of the Self and the desired Other. Through a discursive analysis of the strategies users employ to construct their own identities, and the identities of their desired partners, I argue that identity categories marked as masculine and hunky (sawayaka) are privileged as more desirable than feminine and cute (kawaii) identities. Through this analysis, I suggest that users of this particular forum appear to valorise heteronormative masculinity, which they link to being hunky. Furthermore, I argue that being cute is considered undesirable due to its perception as transgressing normative masculine gendered traits.
The second article, “Stratifying space in Shinjuku Ni-chōme through queer semiotics,” was published within the open access journal ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geography. The article forms part of a special themed section on “Critical Geographical Queer Semiotics” edited by Martin Zebracki and Tommaso Milani. I thank both of these generous scholars for their invaluable insight into my work and for inviting me to join them at a panel for the annual meeting of the Royal Geographic Society in London, 2014. Here is the abstract:
Shinjuku Ni-chōme (an area in central Tokyo) contains the highest concentration of queer establishments in the world, with some estimates suggesting that there are approximately 300 gay male bars within its confines. Each of these bars targets a specific subset of the Japanese gay community, with bars coming to be associated with semiotic structures indexing certain subjectivities (known as Types). Through an ethnographic study of the district, I argue that signage plays a crucial role in differentiating Ni-chōme from the surrounding cityscape, creating a queer space. Furthermore, drawing upon the emerging discipline of Linguistic Landscaping, I analyse how signage can be read as “mapping” particular Types onto areas in Ni-chōme. I suggest that eroticised images of men, Japanese scripts, colour and language choice all act as queer semiotics that gay men visiting the district utilise to determine the Type of a bar. Finally, I discuss how this process of mapping normalises certain identity categories whilst marginalising others and how one particular identity category based in heteronormative understandings of masculinity has come to dominate the district, pushing other “niche” identity categories to the fringes of Ni-chōme.