Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
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Family, Home, and Memories: On Shamanistic (De-) Constructions of Identity in Yu Miri's Hachigatsu no hate
October 18, 2005 / 6.30 P.M.
Yu Miri (1968), a second generation South Korean (zainichi kankokujin) writer, has long refused to meet the expectation of making her ethnic origin a central topic of her literature. Hachigatsu no hate (The Bounds of August, 2004), however, marks a change: this 820-page family-saga can be read as a construction both of Korean ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ leading to Japan. Using ‘typical’ postcolonial style elements such as the incorporation of Korean words and referring strongly to Korean folklore, Yu clearly displays a new identification with the position of ‘zainichi author’.
Moreover, in the course of the shamanistic ritual which frames the novel, a character named ‘Yu Miri’ is entrusted with saving her Korean ancestors’ ‘sunken souls’ through writing down their fates. Thus, the novel is structured in such a way that in the first chapter, ‘Yu Miri’ herself turns into a shaman who then lets the dead speak. Presumably because of this character ‘Yu Miri’ who sets out to discover her family’s past, the novel has been read as a kind of ‘homecoming’ by many critics. I would hold, however, that rather than establishing something like clearly defined identities, Hachigatsu no hate is undermining the idea of a single, ‘unified identity’ by using shamanism as a powerful metaphor.
Locating the novel not only within Yu’s literature but within the wider framework of zainichi chosenjin bungaku, my presentation will focus on such processes of identity (de-) construction, paying special attention to concepts such as ‘family’, ‘home’, and ‘memory’.
Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt is a Ph.D. candidate at Trier University. She is a member of the graduates’ program “IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE. Gender Constructions and Interculturality (18th – 21st Century)” at Trier.