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Thinking outside the Chinese Box: David Mitchell and Murakami Haruki’s subversion of stereotypes about Japan

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Author(s): Chikako Nihei

Journal: New Voices : A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand
ISSN 1833-5233

Volume: 3;
Start page: 86;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: David Mitchell | Murakami Haruki | Orientalism | stereotypes | subjectivity

ABSTRACT
Japan has often been portrayed by orientalist stereotypes, as famously framed by Edward Said, that were mainly constituted within Europe and North America. There are two distinct streams of orientalist discourse around Japan: traditional Orientalism and techno-Orientalism. Here the West speaks of the Other/the non-West rather than allowing it to speak for itself. In regards to the discourse of ‘Otherness’, another interesting phenomenon is Japan’s self-Orientalising: through the internalisation of the Western Orientalist discourse, Japan identifies itself and constructs its own subjectivity.In his literary works, the author David Mitchell attempts to subvert the conventional orientalist approach to describe Japan while concurrently maintaining his position as a British observer. He makes use of Western perspectives to cater to his Western readers’ preference for Japan’s traditional and cultural elements, and yet at the same time attempts to subvert stereotypes. Mitchell’s approach is reminiscent of Japanese author Murakami Haruki’s use of both ‘Japaneseness’ and ‘un-Japaneseness’ in his works. Mitchell also learnt the importance of the use of the subjective narrative voice from Murakami. In this article, I examine how David Mitchell, as a western author, attempts to go beyond orientalist stereotypes, and how his writing is influenced by Murakami Haruki.
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