Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)

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9780822328056: Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)
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Over the past few decades, many young Japanese women have emerged as Japan's most enthusiastic "internationalists," investing in study or work abroad, or in romance with Western men as opportunities to circumvent what they consider their country's oppressive corporate and family structures. Drawing on a rich supply of autobiographical narratives, as well as literary and cultural texts, Karen Kelsky situates this phenomenon against a backdrop of profound social change in Japan and within an intricate network of larger global forces. In exploring the promises, limitations, and contradictions of these "occidental longings," Women on the Verge exposes the racial and erotic politics of transnational mobility. Kelsky shows how female cosmopolitanism recontextualizes the well-known Western male romance with the Orient: Japanese women are now the agents, narrating their own desires for the "modern" West in ways that seem to defy Japanese nationalism as well as long-standing relations of power not only between men and women but between Japan and the West. While transnational movement is not available to all Japanese women, Kelsky shows that the desire for the foreign permeates many Japanese women's lives. She also reveals how this feminine allegiance to the West-and particularly to white men-can impose its own unanticipated hegemonies of race, sexuality, and capital. Combining ethnography and literary analysis, and bridging anthropology and cultural studies, Women on the Verge will also appeal to students and scholars of Japan studies, feminism, and global culture.

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Review:

"Kelsky's superb study offers a rare and fresh perspective on the experiences and hopes of contemporary Japanese woman."
--Seminary Co-Op Bookstore

"Kelsky's stories about the seemingly inexhaustible subject of Japanese women make this book a stimulating read."
--Kimberly Palmer," Asahi Shimbun"

""Women on the Verge" successfully puts recent feminist theoretical concerns with agency, identity, discourse and desire to the ethnographic test."
--Carol McGranahan, "Anthropology Newsletter"

"Kelsky expertly draws on current anthropological, theoretical writing about globalization and the flows of transnational capital and culture. . . . [S]he is using impressive and diverse sources to launch this investigation."
--Japan Studies Review

"Kelsky's main contribution is to boldly portray the historical and contemporary construction of the powerful discursive framework of sexualized and racialized global images of white men, Japanese women, Japanese men, and white women. . . . [A]n intriguing and compelling global analysis of the influential significations that Japanese women meet and reproduce. . . ."
--Nancy Rosenberger," Journal of Japanese Studies"

"The complexities that Kelsky uses to bring forth the stories here create a picture of life infinitely more real and alive than a more simplified and/or judgmental story of the weak and the strong or of pure sexism. The power of these women's lives and the power of nationalistically invested forces are real. The book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the social construction of desire."
--Frederick Cloyd, "International Examiner"

""Women on the Verge" provides a provocative window into the ways in which an imagined 'America' has been wielded as a loooking glass for an imagined 'Japan' and the avenues of social criticism that this construction both opens and closes. The book will be of interest to scholars in gender studies, U.S.-Japan relations, postcolonial studies, and to students interested in understanding the dilemmas entailed in Japan's embrace of the West."
--Amy Borovoy, "American Ethnologist"

""Women on the Verge "is a groundbreaking work, the first systematic study of not only Japanese women's eroticization of the white (American) male, but also of the underlying racial hierarchies of sexual desirability. . . . Kelsky writes lucidly, and mobilizes a diverse array of sources for her analysis. . . . A bold, thoughtful and thought-provoking work, this book should be required reading for all researchers of gender, race, power, sex and desire."
--Hyung Gu Lynn, "Pacific Affairs"

"[A] thorough analysis of contemporary Japanese women's use of the West as a mirror image of critique of their own society. . . . Karen Kelsky's "Women on the Verge" makes a strong case in showing that Japan, although never formally colonized, was and is affected by imperialist and colonial ideological domination. The importance of "Women on the Verge" lies in its effectiveness at tearing down the popular, historically loaded imagery of both Japanese women and the assumed Western superiority."
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--Seija Jalagin, "H-Net Reviews"

"[C]ompelling. . . . [G]reat reading. . . . [T]his book pushes forward discussions of contemporary Japanese culture, the politics of cosmopolitanism, and transnational sexualities. With "Women on the Verge" Kelsky makes an important and bold contribution to the ethnography of Japan and also to the conceptualization of cosmopolitan identities as rhetorical constructs. Her account is convincing and compelling not only for the specialist but for any reader interested in present-day Japanese society and more broadly in transnational cultures."
--James Farrer, "Monumenta Nipponica"

From the Back Cover:

"Taking cover under her more innocuous theme of the recent internationalization of Japanese women's lives and careers, Karen Kelsky bluntly asks one of the great taboo questions in Japanese studies: why do so many Japanese women, if given the chance, prefer white husbands over those of their own ethnicity? What are the historical and psychological reasons for a powerful attraction enshrined in popular culture since "Madame Butterfly "but until now never critically examined, certainly not from a modern feminist perspective? Kelsky's provocative answers to these questions make her "Women on the Verge" the first study we have of Japan's eroticization of the West, in a world already so full of books that would tell us how the West has eroticized Japan."--John Whittier Treat, Yale University

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