Interwoven: Gender and Postcoloniality in Contemporary Korean-Japanese Literature
This thesis focuses on the representation of gender and postcoloniality as interwoven categories in contemporary Korean-Japanese literature (zainichi bungaku). Although in recent years it has become more accepted to regard Korean-Japanese literature as postcolonial literature, the key concepts of postcolonial theory concentrate on European colonialism. Because the thesis is based on the framework of postcolonial studies these concepts have to be adapted to Japanese colonialism and its impact on Korean-Japanese literature. Similarly, reflections of postcolonial theorists concerning the role of gender issues for postcolonial studies need to be observed considering Japanese colonialism.
Women gained their own ‘voice’ on the stage of Korean-Japanese literature as late as in the 1970s, since literary texts of female Korean-Japanese authors hardly get published before that time. Now they participate extensively in the discourses about ethnicity, postcoloniality and gender as presented in Korean-Japanese literature.
My thesis concentrates on authors born in the 1960s and focuses on the following texts: Ishi ni oyogu sakana (“The Fish Swimming in the Stone”, 2002/1994) by Yū Miri (*1968, ♀), Saihate no futari (“Two Persons at the Margin”, 1999) by Sagisawa Megumu (1968-2004, ♀), GO (2000) by Kaneshiro Kazuki (*1968, ♂) and Nason no sora (“The Sky of Nason”, 2001) by Kim Masumi (*1961, ♀). The diversity of these texts and authors may reflect the variety of the Korean-Japanese literary scene: While Yū and Kaneshiro seem to be sceptical about being labelled as ‘zainichi’ authors and do not limit themselves thematically, Kim explicitly concentrates on ‘zainichi’ topics. Sagisawa, however, had already begun her career as an author when she found out that her grandmother was Korean. Subsequently, she has picked up ‘zainichi’ topics in some of her texts. The perspective these four authors show by dealing with the issue of gender and the way they construct male and female characters also varies widely.
A careful textual analysis and comparison of the texts listed above will demonstrate that the Japanese postcolonial discourse (as other postcolonial discourses) is not only directed toward ethnic, but also toward gender differences. Furthermore, it will show that ethnicity and gender as constructed in postcolonial discourses are no separate categories but closely interlinked.
The aim of this thesis is on the one hand to give some new impulses to the study of Korean-Japanese literature by contributing to the theorization of the field. On the other hand I also hope to contribute to a greater sensitivity towards gender issues regarding the research about Korean-Japanese literature.