Accepted Paper:

The poetics and politics of kataribe storytelling  

Author:

Maja Veselič (University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines narrative attempts to preserve and pass down the memories of the 2011 Tohoku triple disaster in the form of kataribe storytelling.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines narrative attempts to preserve and pass down the memories of the 2011 Tohoku triple disaster in the form of kataribe storytelling. While in early Japan kataribe were professional reciters who memorized and transmitted (i.e. recorded) communal myths and important historical events, the word later came to denote tellers of folk-tales, primarily for the purpose of entertainment. In the post-WWII Japan, however, the term kataribe also became used for the survivors of the atomic bomb and other disasters, who have been relating their first-hand experience to wider audiences in order to instruct them in important practical and moral lessons.

In the communities affected by the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, too, certain individuals and groups have begun performing as kataribe and various kataribe bus and taxi tours of disaster areas have appeared. Based on interviews with survivors and audience participation in kataribe talks in Tohoku and Tokyo, this paper discusses both the poetics of the kataribe genre (e.g. narrative structures, imageries, use of space and objects as mnemonic devices) as well as the politics of such storytelling, touching upon the criteria of legitimacy in acting as kataribe, issues of representation and the challenges to dominant versions of the (post)disaster events.

Panel P118
Mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-disaster contexts