Monday, August 1, 2022

Daniel White's "Administering Affect"

Daniel White is Senior Research Associate in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Administering Affect: Pop-Culture Japan and the Politics of Anxiety, and reported the following:
At the top of page 99 of Administering Affect is an image of three young women posing for a photographer at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 12, 2009. They were named the “Ambassadors of Cute.” They were selected by advisors to the ministry to advance the image of “Cool Japan,” a government-led nation branding campaign that sought to build Japan’s soft power as a tool of geopolitics. Below the image is a long quote from a former official within the Public Diplomacy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As this official was stationed in Iraq prior to his new post, he reflected on how he saw Iraqis’ feelings for Japan in the context of modernization:
Iraqi people also look to Japan as a model for the reconstruction of a nation, for nation building. I was often told how Japan is admired for its miraculous construction after the war in such a short time and in its own way. Not like the European way. So, they wanted to build their nation learning from Japan’s experiences because this is the first time Iraqi people have become able to build their nation.
I like to think the Page 99 Test shines in showcasing one of several things ethnography does well: juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated details that nevertheless compose part of a larger picture. What the test does not do is directly connect the dots. It does not spell out how young Japanese women selected to advertise cute (kawaii) fashion around the world might help administrators in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accomplish their geopolitical aims in Iraq.

The rest of Administering Affect completes the picture. It showcases several examples of Japan’s nation branding campaigns in order to tell the whole story of what I call “Pop-Culture Japan,” a new image of Japan conceived of largely by male Japanese bureaucrats to restore national pride via pop culture where they imagined Japan had lost it with the country’s stagnating economy since the 1990s. These bureaucrats attempted to use the positive feelings of foreign fans of Japanese pop culture to transform the negative feelings of domestic publics. For this reason, I call their strategies of nation branding a practice of “administering affect.” By showing how this happens in the case of Japan’s “Cool Japan” branding campaigns, formed in a context of geopolitical anxiety, the book sheds light on how the way state officials imagine the world can powerfully shape how others come to feel about it.
Learn more about Administering Affect at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue