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Modern Girls on the Go:
Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan

January 7-9, 2010
University of Oregon

These events are free and open to the public.
For more info, please call 346-1521.

This international conference, involving scholars from the fields of history, anthropology, visual studies, and literature, will investigate the lived experiences and cultural depictions of women who worked in jobs related to ideas of mobility in twentieth and twenty-first century Japan, including flight attendants, tour bus guides, beauty queens, professional athletes, educators, and soldiers. These women, often conspicuous in their uniforms, have influenced gender norms, patterns of daily life, and Japan’s international image. They have been an integral and highly visual part of the national workforce but have been overlooked by scholars. They performed jobs that were considered fashionable in their first inception and therefore represented ideas of modernity at different historical moments. These laborers show the important relationship between gender, modernity, and technology.


Thursday, January 7, 2010
2:30 pm – Knight Library Browsing Room
Keynote Presentation: “Kitty on the Go: Japanese Cute as Transborder Fetish”
Christine Yano, University of Hawaii

7:00 pm -Lillis Hall, Room 282
Public Screening: “Even So, I Just Didn’t Do It” (Sore demo, boku wa yattenai, Suo Masayuki, dir., 2006).

Friday, January 8, 2010
9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Lecture Hall, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

9:30-9:45 am – Opening Remarks

9:45 am – 11:00 am
Panel 1: Department Stores as Sites of Mobility

“Moving Up and Out: The ‘Shop Girl’ in Interwar Japan”
Elise K. Tipton, University of Sydney

“Elevator Girls Moving In and Out of the Box”
Laura Miller, Loyola University Chicago

11:00 am – 11:15 am – Coffee break

11:15 am – 12:30 pm
Panel 2: Beauty Work and Japan’s Global Appearance

“Shiseidô and the Mobile Modern Girl”
Vera Mackie, University of Melbourne (presented in absentia)

“Fast Women: The Shinkansen and Changing Japanese Gender Roles”
Christopher Hood, University of Cardiff (presented in absentia) – new time

12:30 pm – 2:30 pm – Lunch break

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Panel 3: Models and Modes of Transportation

“’Flying Geisha’: Japanese Stewardesses as Postwar Modern Girls”
Christine Yano, University of Hawaii

“Bus Guides Tour National Landscapes, Pop Culture, and Youth Fantasies”
Alisa Freedman, University of Oregon

4:00 pm – 4:15 pm – Coffee break

4:15 pm – 5:00 pm – Day’s Closing Remarks and Discussion
Jeff Hanes, University of Oregon

Saturday, January 9, 2010
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Alumni Lounge, Gerlinger Hall

10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Panel 4: Overturning Gender and Class

“Girl Power: Female Soldiers in the Self-Defense Forces”
Sabine Frühstück, University of California, Santa Barbara

“The Ladies League and Corporate Futures: Envisioning an ‘Epoch Change’ Through Female Soccer Success”
Elise Edwards, Butler University

“Beauty Queens on the Go: Miss Japan and the Somatic Uniform”
Jan Bardsley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – – new day and time

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm – Lunch break

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Panel 5: Japanese Educators and Students in the United States

“Traveling to Learn: Tsuda University Students in the United States, 1900-1941”
Sally A. Hastings, Purdue University

“A Personal Journey Across the Pacific”
Yoko McClain, University of Oregon

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm – Coffee break

3:15 pm – 4:00 pm – Day’s Closing Remarks and Discussion
Carol Stabile, University of Oregon

Please click here to view the paper abstracts.

These events are co-sponsored by the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, Oregon Humanities Center, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, the Asian Studies Program, the Department of History, the Center for the Study of Women and Society, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. It was made possible by generous contributions from the Yoko McClain Fund, the CAS Deans Discretionary Fund, the Jeremiah Speaker Fund and a grant from the Association for Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council. It is free and open to the public.

Info on Keynote Event

Hello Kitty, that ubiquitous mouthless icon of Japanese Cute, provides a good case study of the methodological and interpretive issues of globalization. The semantic slate of Hello Kitty is both blank and filled with national-cultural meaning. It is this particular kind of straddling of non-meaning and meaning that allows her interpretation as what I call a “transborder fetish.” Here, I borrow the notion of border fetishism from the field of religious studies to reference the hyper-spectacle both within and of the border. However, I push the notion of border fetish further to examine ways in which this product transcends category specificity through the multiple meanings bestowed by consumers globally. With the intensity of the global gaze pushed to new arenas of high-ticket consumption, Hello Kitty becomes the site of ubiquity that crosses borders: cheap and luxurious, innocent and sexy, child and adult, Japan and mukokuseki (no nationality). It is this very transborder quality of the product that makes Hello Kitty not only a marketer’s dream, but also an anthropologist’s challenge.

Okanoue Toshiko’s Collages, Gilkey Center, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

In conjunction with the conference “Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility and Labor in Japan,” the JSMA is exhibiting a couple of Toshiko Okanoue’s original collages and a selection of photo-lithographs from The Miracle of Silence, a 2007 Nazraeli Press publication. Toshiko Okanoue’s youth was seized by war and a consequence of destruction was reconstruction during the 1950s that included cultural centers and institutions and new museums and galleries. Innovative musicians, writers, and visual artists paved the way for a new era of avant-garde artists. After graduating from the Ogawa Fashion Institute in 1949, Okanoue began studying fashion illustration at Bunka Gakuin College. Lacking confidence in her drawing skills, she started cutting and pasting images from American magazines, such as Vogue and Life. In 1953 these early collages were exhibited at Takemiya Gallery, Tokyo. Art critic Shuzo Takiguchi’s gallery introduction to her work notes, “Miss Okanoue is not a painter; she is a young lady. Working by herself she cuts up illustrated magazines to make collages that depict her very dreams. The resulting album is a contemporary version of Alice in Wonderland.” Please come and see for yourself.