Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 15 No. 1, Fall 2017

Document Type

Full Issue



Editor's Introduction by Melissa Dale

The editor reflects on this issue's new articles, which focus on historical and contemporary expressions of masculinity in China, Japan, Korea, and India.

Asian Masculinity Studies in the West: From Minority Status to Soft Power by Kam Louie

Material focusing on Asian men and sexualities which had in the past resisted analysis, has sparked original and innovative modes of analysis that have become commonplace. In this exciting period, Asian masculinity studies have attracted some adventurous minds and new territories are being explored every day. While carving out an interdisciplinary field for itself, Asian masculinity studies can look forward to attracting interest from researchers in almost all fields of inquiry. Although there may still be concerns about whether Asian masculinity studies can be meaningfully investigated given the diversity of the people and cultures, I suggest that it is also precisely this diversity that makes it a stimulating and burgeoning field.

In League with Gentlemen: Junzi Masculinity and the Chinese Nation in Cultural Nationalist Discourses by Derek Hird

The reintroduction of capitalism in post-Mao China has spurred the emergence of the “new junzi": professionals and businessmen who justify their quest for material wealth by reinterpreting Confucianism as an ethical system compatible with doing business. junzi masculinity has been further boosted by the proliferation of Confucian ideas on television, in books, online, and “national studies” courses. With a focus on junzi masculinity in texts and subjectivity, this paper examines recently published major works on the junzi by public intellectuals and the ways in which professional Chinese men negotiate the junzi ideal in a context of increasing globalization and marketization. Drawing on the concept of cultural nationalism, I argue that the promotion of the junzi ideal is a form of identity-making that seeks to legitimize a moralised view of national culture. In particular, I argue that the masculine figure of the junzi has become a touchstone in the educated elite’s cultural nationalist reimaginings of China. This paper demonstrates that highly educated Chinese men are reworking the figure of the junzi in a quest to shape cultural nationalist discourses in their gender and class interests; yet this approach raises the risk of inciting racialized nationalism.

Snapshots of Shôwa (CE 1926-89) and Post-Shôwa Japan Through Salaryman Articulations by Romit Dasgupta

This paper looks at Japan over the Shôwa (1925—1989) and post- Shôwa, Heisei (1989— ) periods through the discourse of masculinity embodied in the urban, middle-class white-collar “salaryman.” As a sort of “Everyman” of corporate Japan, particularly over the 1960s-1990s, the salaryman came to signify both Japanese masculinity in general, and more specifically Japanese corporate culture. In this regard the discourse of masculinity signified by the salaryman could have been regarded as the culturally privileged hegemonic masculinity. Moreover, despite the corporate restructurings and socio-economic and cultural shifts in Japan since the 1990s, the salaryman continues to be pivotal to the ways in which Japanese corporate culture, Japanese masculinity, and indeed Japanese national identity continue to be framed. This paper traces the emergence of the discourse of the salaryman in the first decades of the twentieth century, its entrenchment in the post-World War II (postwar) decades as the hegemonic blueprint for Japanese masculinity, and its apparent fragmentation over the decades of economic slowdown since the 1990s.

The Aesthetics of Authenticity: Corporate Masculinities in Contemporary South Korean Television Dramas by Joanna Elfving-Hwang

This article discusses representations of "failed" salarymen in recent South Korean television dramas and the ways in which these representations have emerged as sites of cultural negotiation of negative aspects of the contemporary corporate workplace, and corporate masculinity in particular. The recent television drama series Misaeng (Incomplete Life, 2014) is an example of a post-1997 financial crisis salaryman narrative that deals with relations of power between men, individuals and companies. Such shows register a growing unease with the neoliberal corporate environment driven by global competitive value systems, which are shown to be incompatible with the in-group harmony-based corporate practices of the pre-1997 financial crisis era, which are presented as "authentic" Korean values informing earlier corporate social structures. As such, these cultural texts are influential sites for their South Korean viewing audiences to define and determine new ways of making sense of day-to-day experiences and social relationships in the contemporary corporate workplace. This article illustrates how appearances – unkempt and unfashionable ones in particular – signify cultural resistance to new forms of governance that are seen to not only oppress individual men, but also threaten "authentic" Korean cultural values. In this context, contemporary television texts about the corporate world plot the narrative return of the re-masculinized salaryman, through reclaiming and overplaying the aesthetics and values of a working-class Korean masculinity.

Iconographies of Urban Masculinity: Reading "Flex Boards" in an Indian City by Madhura Lohokare

This paper illustrates how popular practices in urban public spaces serve as a site for young, subaltern men to imagine and perform a masculine self while simultaneously allowing them to script themselves in the city’s public life. Based upon ethnographic research conducted in the western Indian city of Pune, my research focuses on the practice of erecting billboards (popularly known as “flex boards”) in the city’s public spaces, typically to mark a special occasion like a birthday of a political leader or a popular figure or a religious celebration. I argue that flex boards represent a rich iconography of urban masculinity, combining a distinct alignment of class-specific motifs of manliness, consumption and politics in contemporary urban India. Against the backdrop of a neoliberal ethos in contemporary Indian context which increasingly constructs and celebrates the ideal of masculinity via the figure of an upper-caste, middle class, professional man, I contend that the practice of erecting flex boards constitutes an attempt by subaltern men to counter their marginalization from the discourse of the city, by (re)writing themselves in to the city’s spaces and subverting the idiom of consumption. This paper draws upon ethnographic material conducted during field research in the city of Pune, located in the state of Maharashtra in western India, between 2014 and 2016.

Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913-1974, by Stefan Huebner (Review) by Susan Brownell

Sports in general, and Asian sports in particular, have been under-studied until very recently. This book examines the important role that sports have played in Asian regional and international relations since the turn of the 20th century. This unique romp through half a century of Asian history reveals a very interesting picture viewed through the lens of major sports events.