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The DIJ History and Humanities Study Group is a forum open to scholars working on Japan in any field of the humanities. It is organized by Barbara Geilhorn. All are welcome to attend.
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Murata Sayaka’s Convenience Store Woman
Discussing Gender Identity and Society in Contemporary Japanese Literature
July 9, 2020 / 18:30h
A convenience store is a reflection of Japan’s society. The way people behave, act, react, and interact is a display of contemporary Japan’s common sense. It reveals how social life is organized in terms of interpersonal relations, habits, norms, values, etc. What, however, happens when someone does not fit Japan’s common sense? Author Murata Sayaka chooses a convenience store to stage and explore this question. Her award-winning novel Konbini Ningen (Convenience Store Woman, 2016) does not only portray and reveal the underlying structures of Japanese society, but also imagines what life is like for people who do not meet common expectations.
In his presentation, Ronald Saladin elaborated on how Murata addresses the fundamental question of an individual’s place within society by focusing on four aspects: gender constructions, social conventions, meaning of work(place), and the relationship between individuals and society. The analysis of these issues shows how Murata deconstructs Japan’s common sense and reveals its naturalized, unspoken, and taken-for-granted rules that organize contemporary Japanese society. Ronald Saladin suggested that the novel is a plea for a more ‘human’ society that allows those who do not fit to find their niche in society as well.
Eighty scholars, students, and experts in the field of literature, including the translators of the English and Italian versions of Konbini Ningen, attended this online session.
Ronald Saladin is Assistant Professor for Japanese Studies at the University of Trier, Germany. In his research he investigates contemporary literature, popular culture, and the media focusing on gender, youth culture and society. His most recent publication is Young Men and Masculinities in Japanese Media – (Un)Conscious Hegemony (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).