Document Type

Full Issue



Editor's Introduction by Melissa S. Dale

Within this issue, we share three examples of the latest research on cultures of dress, clothing, fashion and the formation of identity in the Asia Pacific region. These articles reveal the innovative work that scholars are currently pursuing in this area of research, ranging from the history of the tattooing in Japan, to fashion exchange between China and Mozambique, to the phenomena known as cosplay.

Fashioning Tattooed Bodies: An Exploration of Japan's Tattoo Stigma by John M. Skutlin

This article uses a cultural anthropological approach to examine tattooing stigma in contemporary Japan, particularly in terms of how the stigma has developed and how tattooed individuals engage in various legitimation maneuvers to cope with it. Tattooing has a long history in Japan, and tattoo culture saw a major efflorescence in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, unlike many Western countries, where most tattoos are widely accepted as expressions of individual style and aesthetics, a confluence of historical and cultural factors have resulted in a general antipathy to the practice in Japan, particularly due to its association with yakuza organized crime groups. As increasing numbers of young people go under the needle for what they see as artistic “fashion tattoos,” reconciliatory strategies must be deployed in order to maintain social cohesion and assure adherence to group norms even while violating them. Through historical accounts and ethnographic data, this paper thus elucidates the complicated nature of stigma in Japan and the specific ways in which individuals fashion both their bodies and their strategies to legitimize themselves, showing how efforts to conceal tattoos – even when only partially successful – can be an effective means of reconciling themselves with the general society around them.

"It Is Good to Have Something Different": Mutual Fashion Adaptation in the Context of Chinese Migration to Mozambique by Johanna Von Pezold

Based on ethnographic field research in the Mozambican capital Maputo, this article explains why and how contemporary Chinese migrants and Mozambicans adopt elements of each other’s fashion. Due to their variety and good quality-price ratio, Chinese fashion products are increasingly well-received by Mozambicans. In search of novel additions to their own style, both Chinese and Mozambicans become attracted by the exotic appeal of what they consider “typical” of the other culture. Unlike the situation in many colonial and post-colonial contexts, Chinese-Mozambican fashion adaptation is motivated by the desire to achieve a novel, distinct, and fashionable individual look, rather than by the wish to express progressivity or employability. This study demonstrates that the adaptation of fashion elements in the Chinese-Mozambican context has specific characteristics that distinguish it from fashion exchanges between Western and non-Western countries. Moreover, it shows that China indeed has “low” cultural soft power in the form of fashion.

Fashioning the Embodied Liminal/Liminoid Self: an Examination of the Dualities of Cosplay Phenomenon in East Asia by Anne Peirson-Smith

This paper will examine reasons for the rapidly developing cosplay phenomenon in East Asia by focusing on the cosplayer’s experience of the ritualized, embodied performance aspects of this contemporary play activity and its use or creation of liminal spaces and liminality to facilitate and accommodate it. Also, the paper will suggest that cosplay is a manifestation of the participatory need to fashion and inhabit new personal and social territories through the use of the fashioned body, aided by crafted artifacts, and undertaken in bounded play spaces. These practices enable the cosplayer to inhabit and occupy liminal zones, thereby transcending the pressures of their ordinary, everyday existence. This form of individual sense-making and collective agency is based on lived experience and situated practice, where the human body represents multiple discursive possibilities. This article intends to shed light on the motivations behind this type of spectacular dressing up or fashioned practice by offering an empirically based explanation of why given communities of practice spend their time and money on these sartorial behaviors. This article further hopes to advance knowledge about the reasons for dressing up in general, and for cosplay in particular.

Fashion, Identity, and Power in Modern Asia (2018), Kyunghee Pyun and Aida Yuen Wong, editors (Review) by Barbara Molony

In this issue's book review, Barbara Molony introduces us the Kyunghee Pyun and Aida Yuen Wong's edited volume, Fashion, Identity, and Power in Modern Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Their collection of 14 essays explores "the intersection of Western clothing, accessories, hair fashions, and fabrics with existing local versions of those aspects of dress and representation of the body" through the themes of garments and uniforms, accessories, fabrics, and fashion styles.