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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Visible Nation/Ideology of Pleasure: Japanese Nationalism in the Age of Information Capitalism

Dr Yumiko Iida.

With advanced information technology coming to penetrate and redefine every facet of human life, it appears that global capital of the present age has near completed its project of subjugating the entire world under its synchronic, abstract and timeless gaze. Under this condition, Japanese nation-sate and the way the people are linked to their political authority have been undergoing some visible and less visible transformations, adjusting itself to a highly media permeated and technologically driven socio-cultural environment. Particularly noteworthy is the emergence of a renewed enthusiasm to express national sentiments, as exemplified in the populism under the early period of the Koizumi government and a nation-wide fever in supporting 'team Japan' in the 2002 World Cup games, that operates by disseminating, circulating and consuming media generated images of national symbols and icons. Unlike more conventional forms of nationalism, these expressions are not inclined to dissolve ones identity into that of the nation nor to pursue desires for meaning, history, and national narratives, but instead, they are driven to affirm ones individualistic and nationally designated international form of identity. Precisely by being devoid of meaning, historical depth, and empirically grounded subjectivity, however, this nihilistic nationalism functions as a powerful form of ideology that can have a far-reaching effect upon the already weakened democratic foundation of Japanese nation. Indeed, simultaneous to the emergence of this new form of nationalism, a familiar nationalist rhetoric emphatic of recovering national identity and pursuing national interests has regained its strengths. Despite their very different motivations, rhetorical contents, and driving forces, these two modes of nationalism are mutually supportive, sharing the same roots in capitalist culture and subjectivity dominated by advanced technology and communication media which have been radically reshaping the cognitive and experiential frame of the individuals.


Dr Yumiko Iida  (Canada)
Research Associate
MUNK Center for International Studies
University of Toronto

Born, raised and educated in Japan. Hold degrees from Yokohama National University, University of Toronto, York University. Authored Rethinking Identity in Modern Japan: Nationalism as Aesthetics, Routledge, 2002.

  • Nationalism
  • Fascism
  • Commodity fetishism
  • Visual ideology
Person as Subject
  • Paul Virilio Teresa Brennan

(30 min Conference Paper, English)