Author:Blai Guarné (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Paper short abstract:
By reviewing the historical emergence of Japan and the circum-Mediterranean region as anthropological field sites, the paper examines the ideological biases of anthropological research with the ultimate goal of fostering a non-hegemonic framework for knowledge production on East Asia.
Paper long abstract:
A key issue in developing a critical approach to the topic of knowledge production on East Asia is the very notion of 'East Asia,' as an epistemological and geopolitical category defined by Western scholarship. In recent years, the crisis of area studies has played a crucial role in the deconstruction of a knowledge production framework where a few epistemologies and scholarly traditions are hegemonic, whilst other discourses are marginalized and relegated to peripheral positions. An issue that deserves special consideration here is how the production of knowledge in those 'peripheries' is affected by hegemonic discourses, and to what extent is possible to articulate alternative epistemologies that bypass centers and interconnect national traditions in a more horizontal context. The paper explores this question by reviewing the historical emergence of Japan as a field site for Western anthropology. Almost simultaneously to Ruth Benedict's definition of Japan as a 'shame culture' (1946), British social anthropology defined the circum-Mediterranean region as an anthropological field by means of the 'honor and shame syndrome' and the application of the structural-functionalist approach; one that was pioneerly applied by John Embree (1939) in the first Western ethnography on Japan. Underlying those ethnographic constructions, some critics have denounced the most pervasive myths of Orientalism in the study of contemporary world. Through the consideration of those intellectual contexts, the paper examines the ideological biases of anthropological research with the ultimate goal of fostering a more horizontal and non-hegemonic framework for knowledge production on East Asia.
Disjoining approaches: tropes, hubs, and production of knowledge on East Asia