Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sabine Frühstück's "Playing War"

Sabine Frühstück is Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her publications include Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan and Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army.

Frühstück applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes why contemporary Japanese critics hardly participate in the debate about militaristic and other violent video games and their impact on children’s cognition and behavior. Very briefly: it’s about the extremely low violent crime rate in Japan and about the low profile of its military forces. In the book at large, I interrogate how essentialist notions of childhood and militarism in Japan and, to some degree beyond, have been productively intertwined, how assumptions about childhood and war have converged, and how children and childhood have worked as symbolic constructions and powerful rhetorical tools—particularly in the decades between the nation- and empire-building efforts of the late nineteenth century and the uneven manifestations of globalization at the beginning of the twenty-first. The modern figure of the child has emerged from a set of contradictory assumptions about children: that children are innately attracted to war, and that they are exceptionally vulnerable to its violence. This concept of childhood has thus served as a trope of both innocence and immaturity and wildness and uncontrollability. Within this fused view, children have been variably thought of as being simultaneously in need of rescue, protection, guidance, control, and suppression. At one time, children’s bodies were close to the ground, playfully pursuing territorial advances, almost physically one with the soil. They were envisioned as ever-ready soldiers, constantly signaling that war is natural, inherently human, and indefinitely inevitable. At another time, children were seen as all innocence and as equipped with a pronounced moral authority that relies on that very innocence. As carriers of human emotions, children appeared as proof of the authenticity and naturalness of these emotions—and, finally, epitomized by their very (demographically speaking) disappearance, they functioned as signifier and representation of national decline. The book covers the time between Japan’s first modern wars of the late nineteenth century to our current moment. More than 40 images are incorporated in the analysis.
Learn more about Playing War at the University of California Press.

--Marshal Zeringue