• Performing Democracy: Kyoto’s Higashi-kujo Madang as a counter-public event

    Bruce Caron (see profile)
    Japan, Visual anthropology
    Item Type:
    University of California, Santa Barbara
    buraku, kyoto, madang, resident koreans, Ethnocultural festivals, Urban creativity
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    The role of the public performance in the display and maintenance of cultural and social meanings and institutions has been variously described in and out of anthropology for some time, but this is only now emerging as a central topic in urban anthropology, cultural geography/sociology and cultural studies. My work updates the ethnographic critique of public performance within more general critiques of modernity and urban cultural practice. My work reaches out to issues of civic space, civil society, popular culture, and the public sphere. The festival under study is a focal place for local democracy, and a tactical space of resistance to cultural hegemony by the state/marketplace. For “the festival” is also a primary example of civic participation, and offers a particularly clear model for community action within the modern public sphere. Kyoto, Japan is an exceptionally valuable site for the study of urban festivals, due to the numbers of festivals that annually occur; the range of meanings imputed to these festivals; the central place of Kyoto’s main civic festivals as cultural properties within Japan’s national cultural self-image. Kyoto’s Higashi-Kujo Madang festival was organized by members of an undercaste community made up of Koreans permanently residing in Kyoto together with Japanese citizens from a stigmatized neighborhood called a “buraku.” I was extremely fortunate to have begun my study of this festival from the time of its initial planning and performance through its second year. My critique of Kyoto is also aimed at the Japanese nation-state, where most of the efforts at cultural management are situated. Koreans in Japan are making demands that the society open itself up to multicultural civic participation. But what are the current qualities of the public sphere in Japan, and how does this open (or close up) to participation by a diasporic community?
    Contact the author if you want to view the videos. 2019 note: This work was completed in 1996-1997… as a multimedia CD-ROM, with hundreds of photos, dozens of videos, and active links within the document. The authoring platform (Framemaker, before Adobe bought it) did not survive intact. And so the original files are deprecated. The author regrets that that original format is not available.
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago


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