Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for East Asian Anthropology
Cosponsored by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Social movements
Secondary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Japan and South Korea have an ambivalent relationship, sharing deep connections and wrestling with seemingly intractable difference. Over the decade of the 2000s, shared experiences like the jointly hosted 2002 FIFA world cup of soccer and the spread of the pop-culture Korean Wave drew these north eastern Asian neighbors together. Over the same period, a rising tide of revisionist nationalism found a home on the internet as citizens, activists, and trolls took to the web with enthusiasm. This panel will examine how the internet serves as a venue for action and interaction in East Asia. We suggest that inter-regional connectivity has shaped both conflict and convergence, and highlight how the “virtual” has taken on an increasingly prominent role in everyday life and politics. In Japanese and South Korean society, phenomena such as powerfully critical but anonymous message boards, accessible but extreme right-wing political movements, and innovative but ephemeral forms of street demonstrations have been organized on and through the internet. Net users of each country have often recognized each other as a counterpart and directly interacted with each other in various ways from mere references and collegiality to heated cyberwars and trolling campaigns. While analyzing what is new in information and communication technologies and digital media, this panel will also interrogate ways in which long lasting historical tensions between and within the two countries are recast to reconstitute the national borders and reshape “Japaneseness” and “Koreanness” in a digital age.
Next, this panel will explore how the logic of xenophobia in East Asia is distinct. Unlike in North America, Europe, and Australia, where more visible racial difference serves as an important axis of xenophobia, intra-Asian racism employs other tools. In the Japanese colonial era, the attempt to distinguish Japanese from Korean and Chinese through their visible features was an important element of colonial rule. The Japanese right wing targets Zainichi (ethnic Koreans who have resided in Japan for multiple generations), and Koreans often target the Korean Chinese whose ancestors moved to China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to take up low-paying jobs. The inability to distinguish them visibly is a foundation of these efforts (e.g., “outing” Zainichi celebrities) and is also a fresh source of anxiety, particularly in putatively anonymous, digital venues.
Lastly, this panel will attend to the shifting technological and cultural dynamics of populist politics, exploring the interplay between popular and fringe activisms. On one hand, groups that used to be on the fringe of the public sphere are reaching the broad public through the Internet. Japan’s xenophobic groups and militias adopted YouTube as their tool for reaching out to a broader public, and use online trolling (provoking and disrupting online groups and users) to bring unwanted attention to other groups. On the other hand, “fringe” ideas that had previously been unacceptable in mainstream society have been mainstreamed, coming to exist alongside popular discourses. When xenophobia, misogyny, and offensive speech appear in a popular online communities, even to decry the "fringe" is to engage it.