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Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan

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This provocative study of gender and sexuality in contemporary Japan investigates elements of Japanese popular culture including erotic comic books, stories of mother-son incest, lunchboxes—or obentos—that mothers ritualistically prepare for schoolchildren, and children's cartoons. Anne Allison brings recent feminist psychoanalytic and Marxist theory to bear on representat This provocative study of gender and sexuality in contemporary Japan investigates elements of Japanese popular culture including erotic comic books, stories of mother-son incest, lunchboxes—or obentos—that mothers ritualistically prepare for schoolchildren, and children's cartoons. Anne Allison brings recent feminist psychoanalytic and Marxist theory to bear on representations of sexuality, motherhood, and gender in these and other aspects of Japanese culture. Based on five years of fieldwork in a middle-class Tokyo neighborhood, this theoretically informed, accessible ethnographic study provides a provocative analysis of how sexuality, dominance, and desire are reproduced and enacted in late-capitalistic Japan.


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This provocative study of gender and sexuality in contemporary Japan investigates elements of Japanese popular culture including erotic comic books, stories of mother-son incest, lunchboxes—or obentos—that mothers ritualistically prepare for schoolchildren, and children's cartoons. Anne Allison brings recent feminist psychoanalytic and Marxist theory to bear on representat This provocative study of gender and sexuality in contemporary Japan investigates elements of Japanese popular culture including erotic comic books, stories of mother-son incest, lunchboxes—or obentos—that mothers ritualistically prepare for schoolchildren, and children's cartoons. Anne Allison brings recent feminist psychoanalytic and Marxist theory to bear on representations of sexuality, motherhood, and gender in these and other aspects of Japanese culture. Based on five years of fieldwork in a middle-class Tokyo neighborhood, this theoretically informed, accessible ethnographic study provides a provocative analysis of how sexuality, dominance, and desire are reproduced and enacted in late-capitalistic Japan.

30 review for Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Annika

    Essentially an interesting read, if only a slightly outdated nowadays. My favourite part of the book was the chapter called "Japanese Mothers and Obentōs: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus" which, in my opinion, offered a solidly believable image on the foundation of the Japanese society. Quite many things clicked into place and made sense about the Japanese society after reading that particular chapter. Even though informative and helpful to my own research, the book received only a Essentially an interesting read, if only a slightly outdated nowadays. My favourite part of the book was the chapter called "Japanese Mothers and Obentōs: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus" which, in my opinion, offered a solidly believable image on the foundation of the Japanese society. Quite many things clicked into place and made sense about the Japanese society after reading that particular chapter. Even though informative and helpful to my own research, the book received only a two star rating from me, because its theoretical base was mostly psychoanalysis and other Freudian theories, which made it a pain for me to read. Even though the author herself agreed in the intro chapter that these theories are perhaps not the most suitable ones to analyze Japanese society with, the book was still loaded with them. This however seems to be the general problem with books dealing with similar subject matter in Japanese studies. The author did try, to which I am really thankful for, to offer other balancing or slightly different theories alongside psychoanalysis, but unfortunately these got lost in the general "dance around the penis-pole" mess.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John C.

    -I read this primarily for the chapter on ecchi manga/anime directed at teenage boys, which is unfortunately the least illuminating portion of the book. Allison's thesis that the clockwork incidents of accidental exposure and the resulting male paralysis/nosebleed/mid-air suspension are intended to prime the reader for a lifetime of commodity fetishism seems a little tenuous, and I feel like something is missing. I (guiltily) consume this stuff and have always wanted someone to convincingly situ -I read this primarily for the chapter on ecchi manga/anime directed at teenage boys, which is unfortunately the least illuminating portion of the book. Allison's thesis that the clockwork incidents of accidental exposure and the resulting male paralysis/nosebleed/mid-air suspension are intended to prime the reader for a lifetime of commodity fetishism seems a little tenuous, and I feel like something is missing. I (guiltily) consume this stuff and have always wanted someone to convincingly situate the astoundingly repetitive and formulaic nature of this genre within a cultural context, so I guess I'll have to keep looking, or at least re-read that section. Still, a fascinating look at some of Japan's more infamous cultural exports and the context in which they are produced.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Yanathorn Jiararattanakul

    Psychology and Manga

  4. 4 out of 5

    Félix D'Jesús

    Me parece un tema muy interesante,mas en esto tiempo donde el Anime/Manga es un fenómeno cultural en Occidente,y no se ha tratado con seriedad académica,espero que alguna editorial Española,Mexicana,Argentina o cualquier otra lo traduzca al español.

  5. 4 out of 5

    KimberlyRose

    Somewhat dated but still insightful and applicable, this seven chapter text is a professional, personable, and extremely readable book. Taking a psychological look at anthropology, she examines mothers and their place in society as reflected in the popular culture of Japan in the '80s and early '90s. (I applaud Ms. Allison for taking a stance often derided in academic circles.) She presents her arguments with conviction and sound logic. I especially liked how her research avoided "colonizing the Somewhat dated but still insightful and applicable, this seven chapter text is a professional, personable, and extremely readable book. Taking a psychological look at anthropology, she examines mothers and their place in society as reflected in the popular culture of Japan in the '80s and early '90s. (I applaud Ms. Allison for taking a stance often derided in academic circles.) She presents her arguments with conviction and sound logic. I especially liked how her research avoided "colonizing the East" by applying "universal" Western beliefs; instead, she presented uniquely Asian theories (e.g. the Oedipal myth versus the Ajase myth).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Szendi

    The introduction offers a really great overview of gender / sexuality / non-West studies in the field of anthropology (at least I found it helpful). I skipped around a lot while reading this book, and for whatever reason, the discussions on comics interested me less than the discussions about fantasies of mother-son incest. My interest is compounded by such phenomenon as "Shingo Mama," the former boy-band pop star who turned to dressing as a housewife and advocating "mayo kisses." The introduction offers a really great overview of gender / sexuality / non-West studies in the field of anthropology (at least I found it helpful). I skipped around a lot while reading this book, and for whatever reason, the discussions on comics interested me less than the discussions about fantasies of mother-son incest. My interest is compounded by such phenomenon as "Shingo Mama," the former boy-band pop star who turned to dressing as a housewife and advocating "mayo kisses."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Disturbing book on Japanese society. Good intro on how the socialization of the individual begins at home and how societal ideals are diffused within the family/social structure. Also explains some of the disturbing aspects of the Japanese psyche, if such a thing can be so generalized.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ginger K

    Interesting subject matter, but the underlying theories leave me cold. I'm not a fan of psychological anthropology anyway, and much of this volume is strongly Freudian. Interesting subject matter, but the underlying theories leave me cold. I'm not a fan of psychological anthropology anyway, and much of this volume is strongly Freudian.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Halliwell

  10. 4 out of 5

    John

  11. 5 out of 5

    Axel

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marie-Therese

  13. 5 out of 5

    usagi ☆ミ

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  15. 5 out of 5

    More Bedside Books

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  17. 5 out of 5

    A.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wakey

  19. 4 out of 5

    Austin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hestia Cestina

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hermes

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suvi

    Asian Studies

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Ernst

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jason Danely

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Shima

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elvie Mae

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