World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


MEETING PLACE OF TWO OCEANS (MAJMA'AL-BA'RAYN): MULTI-DIMENSIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF MIDDLE EAST - 5/5: How Does One ''Oriental'' Entity Meet Another? Reception of Modern Middle Eastern Literature in Japan (140-b) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30 pm- 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University (Japan)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Mari OKA

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: How has modern Middle Eastern literature been introduced and received in a different culture, especially in a society like Japan’s, which is neither Western nor possesses a Judeo-Christian cultural tradition? Among the numerous and varied works, certain works are chosen to be introduced and received by society, while others are not. What elements? political, cultural, or economical? Both internal and external, are at play in the selection and intercultural reception of these literary works? Unlike countries like France, England, or the U.S., where citizens of Middle Eastern origin live in large numbers because of historical reasons, Japan has no such historical association with Middle Eastern literature. Therefore, what is the significance and motivation in introducing Middle Eastern literature in Japan in the first place? Geographically located in the extreme East and historically recognized as ‘the West’ in Asia, Japan is both ‘an object’ of Orientalism in the eyes of Westerners and, simultaneously, the subject of Orientalism in Asia through its Westernized gaze toward other Asian countries. Through this panel, we will attempt to explore how and whether Japan’s dual character within the paradigm of Orientalism affects its reception of Middle Eastern literature, using Japan and the history of its reception of Middle Eastern literature as an example.

Chair: : Mari OKA (Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University)

Paper presenter: Kantarô TAIRA (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) “Reception of modern Arabic Literature in Japan”
Discusses the most important component of Arabic literature in the Arabic language. About 500 titles have been translated into Japanese, but a majority of them have been published only in magazines for specific purposes and for a niche readership. ‘Lotus’, one such leading journal issued by the Japanese union of Asian-African writers, has regularly featured the Palestinian resistance as one of its main concerns. Egyptian literature has also been regarded representative; a certain female author was preferentially featured because of her feminist inclination when dealing with the Islamic patriarchal victimization of Arab Muslim women, which appealed to the Japanese readership.

Paper presenter: Satoshi UDO (The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science)” Reception of Arabo-Berber Literature in Japan”
Focuses on the French interpretation of Arabo-Berber literature, which had been ignored since long but is now steadily being reevaluated in Japan. During the Algerian War, Leftist students in Japan, who had supported the anti-colonial struggle in Maghreb, invited some FLN (National Liberation Front) members and helped them found their branch in Tokyo. Young researchers of French literature have translated contemporary documents of the Independent War, thereby introducing literary works in the same genre. After a long interval, with the flourishing of Creole literature in the 1990s, North African francophone literature acquired rapid recognition as one of the significant media of ‘exophony’ In the recent past, some Arab dramatists such as Lebanon’s Rabih Mroué, have been repeatedly invited by Japanese theatres.

Paper presenter: Kazue HOSODA, (The Institute of Policy and Cultural Studies, Chuo University) “Reception of modern Hebrew Literature in Japan” Discusses modern Hebrew literature in Japan, or more precisely, the lack of recognition to this genre. Translations of Hebrew literature are mainly introduced in Israeli governmental publications in Japan. Although some Hebrew novels and poems have been translated into Japanese, they were introduced as a part of ‘Jewish literature’ by scholars of either German or American literature. Japanese translations of Hebrew literature are mostly of juvenile books; however, some of these works have enjoyed wide public acceptance. The popular themes of these juvenile books are ‘the Holocaust’ and ‘coexistence between Arabs and Jews,’ which shows that ‘the minority issue’ is a favorite among Japanese readers. Currently, the situation has changed to a certain extent since Israeli cinema and contemporary dances are gaining popularity, thus, possibly helping the Japanese audience understand complicated aspects of Israeli society and Hebrew culture.

Paper presenter: Naho NAKAMURA, (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) “Reception of Persian Literature in Japan”
Mentions the efforts made by Japanese researchers in introducing the Persian language and literature into Japanese society. Prior to World War II, Japanese translators began examining the Western interpretation of Persian literature. Although their attempt to establish direct contact with the Persian language and literature has been limited, they persist till date. As in the case of Umar Khayyam’s Rubayyat, European languages and culture have had a great influence on the Japanese perception of Persian literature. Unlike classical literature, contemporary Iranian literature is usually perceived as a reflection of the Iranian political situation, on which limited information has been provided by the media. Most of the small number of Japanese translations related to contemporary Iran have been originally written in or previously translated into European languages. The problem with this is that it does not reflect the domestic Iranian environment. Some Japanese researchers are interested in contemporary Iranian literature. They attempt to emulate the Iranians’ perception of their literature so that they are able to discover a different portrayal of the meaning of Persian literature. To conclude, the chair, Mari OKA, provides supplementary remarks, including on the subject of the reception of Turkish literature in Japan.