Queer will: Hikikomori as willful subjects: 11 April 2018 JSC Seminar

The Japanese Studies Centre (JSC) was pleased to host Dr. Rosemary Overell from the Department of Media, Film and Communication at the University of Otago on 11 April 2018. Her insightful comments about this emerging social problem captured the interest of staff and students alike.

Dr. Overell (centre) with Dr. Mark Pendleton (visiting from the University of Sheffield, left) and Dr. Jason Jones (Monash, right).

This presentation considered hikikomori as willful subjects. The hikikomori are a portion of the Japanese population who withdraw into their homes. These are mostly young people (between 15 and 35) and mostly young men. The focus of this presentation was how hikikomori constitute a challenge to dominant national imaginaries of Japan as a ‘corporate-family system’ (Allison 2013). This presentation analysed popular media and psychiatric representations of hikikomori, particularly from Saitô’s (2013) work as exemplifying Ahmed’s (2014) notion of ‘willful subjects’. It is argued that the hikikomori’s apparent willfulness produces them as Queer subjects who are out of place and pace with the dominant heteronormative, masculinist culture of contemporary Japan.

Speaker Biography: Rosemary Overell completed a doctorate at the University of Melbourne in 2012. Her thesis, Brutal: Affect Belonging In, and Between, Australia and Japan’s Grindcore Scenes, explored how fans of grindcore metal music feel ‘at home’ in scenic spaces and was based on ethnographic research in Osaka, Japan and Melbourne, Australia. Her most recent work considers how gendered subjectivities are co-constituted by and through mediation. She draws particularly on Lacanian psychoanalysis to explore a variety of mediated sites. In particular, she considers the intersections between affect and signification and how these produce gender. Rosemary has looked at media as varied as anime, extreme metal and reality television.

Dr. Rosemary Overell

More broadly, Rosemary's research interests include gender studies, music subcultures and how affect can enable or curtail particular modes of gendered being and belonging for otherwise marginalised people. This was explored in her 2014 monograph, Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes (Palgrave). She is also the co-editor, with Catherine Dale (Chuo University) of Orienting Feminism: Media, Activism and Cultural Representation (Palgrave, 2018), a collection which explores the meaning of feminisms in the contemporary moment as constituted by both action and uncertainity. Focusing on feminist media representations, the collection asks questions about how feminist subjectivity is articulated and intersects with media technologies and representation. In addition to her academic scholarship, Rosemary writes regularly for The Conversation and has contributed to public debates on how gender and the media work in the contemporary moment. Rosemary is a member of the Performance of the Real research theme steering group and leads the ‘Mediating the Real' programme within the theme. She is also the co-editor, with Sarah Thomasson(University of Queensland) of the Performance of the Real: Working Papers series – a site for the circulation of dialogues, provocations and ideas arising from ‘Real' events. She is currently co-running the Mediating the Real reading group with Brett Nicholls. This group primarily draws on Lacanian and Baudrillardian approaches to mediation of ‘the Real'. Rosemary is also on the editorial board of Metal Music Studies and Puratoke: Journal of Undergraduate Research in the Creative Arts and Industries.

Dr. Rosemary Overell: rosemary.overell@otago.ac.nz