Changes in the Conceptualization of Body in Japanese Science Fiction

With Speaker Dr. Yuki Ohsawa (UBC)

Part of the Centre for Japanaese Research Lunchtime Lecture Series


This research investigates changes in the conceptualizations of technologically-enhanced beings and bodies in contemporary Japanese science fiction anime, manga, and literature. These stories/images and real-life transitions make us consider such issues as what constitutes the body, how the body is now changing, and what the relationship between the body and the self/mind might be. In order to understand ourselves and contemporary conditions and issues, which occur in specific relation to differences inherent in each body—sex, race, disability, disease, and so on—it is essential to analyze these changes in body notions as contemporary visual media themselves critique and discuss them.

Emerging from a close reading of texts from the 1950s to the 2010s, and utilizing theories from Donna Haraway, Yōrō Takeshi, and others, this project argues that, since the 1950s, Japanese popular culture has created a wide range of imagined technological bodies, the depiction of which engages with important philosophical and ethical questions. Another trend exposed through this study is the surprising persistence of the categories of sex, gender, and sexuality, even in depictions that are otherwise radically posthuman.

About the Speaker:

Yuki Ohsawa received her PhD from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). Her research is on images of technological bodies, such as robots and cyborgs, and their transitions since the 1950s to the present in Japanese visual media, such as manga, anime and film. She received her second MA from the University of Victoria. Her earlier research and analytical focus was on representations of women in Japanese films.