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Narrating across Species Lines
Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan
In Anime’s Media Mix, Marc Steinberg convincingly shows that anime is far more than a style of Japanese animation. Beyond its immediate form of cartooning, anime is also a unique mode of cultural production and consumption that led to the phenomenon that is today called “media mix” in Japan and “convergence” in the West.
According to Steinberg, both anime and the media mix were ignited on January 1, 1963, when Astro Boy hit Japanese TV screens for the first time. Sponsored by a chocolate manufacturer with savvy marketing skills, Astro Boy quickly became a cultural icon in Japan. He was the poster boy (or, in his case, “sticker boy”) both for Meiji Seika’s chocolates and for what could happen when a goggle-eyed cartoon child fell into the eager clutches of creative marketers. It was only a short step, Steinberg makes clear, from Astro Boy to Pokémon and beyond.
Steinberg traces the cultural genealogy that spawned Astro Boy to the transformations of Japanese media culture that followed—and forward to the even more profound developments in global capitalism supported by the circulation of characters like Doraemon, Hello Kitty, and Suzumiya Haruhi. He details how convergence was sparked by anime, with its astoundingly broad merchandising of images and its franchising across media and commodities. He also explains, for the first time, how the rise of anime cannot be understood properly—historically, economically, and culturally—without grasping the integral role that the media mix played from the start. Engaging with film, animation, and media studies, as well as analyses of consumer culture and theories of capitalism, Steinberg offers the first sustained study of the Japanese mode of convergence that informs global media practices to this day.
Virtual Migration in Indian Call Centers
What happens over time to Indians who spend their working hours answering phone calls from Americans—and acting like Americans themselves? To find out, the authors of Answer the Call conducted long-term interviews with forty-five agents, trainers, managers, and CEOs at call centers in Bangalore and Mumbai from 2003 to 2012. For nine or ten hours every day, workers in call centers are not quite in India or America but rather in a state of “virtual migration.” Encouraged to steep themselves in American culture from afar, over time the agents come to internalize and indeed perform Americanness for Americans—and for each other.
Call center agents “migrate” through time and through the virtual spaces generated by voice and information sharing. Drawing from their rich interviews, the authors show that the virtual migration agents undergo has no geographically distant point of arrival, yet their perception of moving is not merely abstract. Over the duration of the job, agents’ sense of place and time changes: agents migrate but still remain, leaving them somewhere in between—between India and America, experience and imagination, class mobility and consumption, tradition and modernity, here and there, then and now, past and future.
However tangible and elastic their virtual mobility might seem in these relatively lucrative jobs, it is also suspended within the confines of the very boundaries they migrate across. Having engaged with these vivid and often poignant interviews, readers will never again be indifferent to an Indian agent’s greeting at the other end of a toll-free call: “Hello, my name is Roxanne. How may I help you?”
Maritime Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century America
In the antebellum years, the Western world’s symbolic realities were expanded and challenged as merchant, military, and scientific activity moved into Pacific and Arctic waters. In Antebellum at Sea, Jason Berger explores the roles that early nineteenth-century maritime narratives played in conceptualizing economic and social transitions in the developing global market system and what these chronicles disclose about an era marked by immense change.
Focusing on the work of James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, Berger enhances our understanding of how the nineteenth century negotiated its own tenuous progress by portraying how a wide range of maritime stories lays bare disturbing experiences of the new. Berger draws on Slavoj Žižek’s Lacanian notion of fantasy in order to reconsider the complex way maritime accounts operated in the political landscape of antebellum America, examining topics such as the function of maritime labor know-how within a transformation of scientific knowledge, anxiety produced by conflict between gender-specific and culture-specific forms of enjoyment, and how legal practices illuminate troubling juridical paradoxes at the heart of Polk-era political life.
Addressing the ideas of the antebellum age from unexpected and revealing perspectives, Berger calls on the conception of fantasy to consider how antebellum maritime literature disputes conventional views of American history, literature, and national identity.
The Prehistory of the Upper Mississippi River Region
Histories of Minnesota typically begin with seventeenth-century French fur traders exploring the western shores of Lake Superior. And yet, archaeology reveals that Native Americans lived in the region at least 13,000 years before such European incursions. Archaeology of Minnesota tells their story—or as much as the region’s wealth of artifacts, evidence of human activity, and animal and plant remains can convey.
From archaeological materials, Guy Gibbon reconstructs the social, economic, and political systems—the lifeways—of those who inhabited what we now call Minnesota for thousands of years before the first contact between native peoples and Europeans. From the boreal coniferous forests to the north, to the tall grass prairie to the west and southwest, to the deciduous forest to the east and southeast, the richly diverse land of the upper Mississippi River region, crossed and bordered by all manner of waterways, was a virtual melting pot of prehistoric cultures.
Demonstrating how native cultures adapted and evolved over time, Gibbon provides an explanation that is firmly rooted in the nature of local environments. In doing so, he shows how the study of Minnesota archaeology is relevant to a broader understanding of long-term patterns of change in human development throughout the world.
Insular Fictions from Chivalric Romance to the Novel
The first global history of architecture to give equal attention to Western and non-Western structures and built landscapes, Architecture since 1400 is unprecedented in its range, approach, and insight. From Tenochtitlan’s Great Pyramid in Mexico City and the Duomo in Florence to Levittown’s suburban tract housing and the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, its coverage includes the world’s most celebrated structures and spaces along with many examples of more humble vernacular buildings. Lavishly illustrated with more than 300 photographs, plans, and interiors, this book presents key moments and innovations in architectural modernity around the globe.
Deftly integrating architectural and social history, Kathleen James-Chakraborty pays particular attention to the motivations of client and architect in the design and construction of environments both sacred and secular: palaces and places of worship as well as such characteristically modern structures as the skyscraper, the department store, and the cinema. She also focuses on the role of patrons and addresses to an unparalleled degree the impact of women in commissioning, creating, and inhabiting the built environment, with Gertrude Jekyll, Lina Bo Bardi, and Zaha Hadid taking their place beside Brunelleschi, Sinan, and Le Corbusier.
Making clear that visionary architecture has never been the exclusive domain of the West and recognizing the diversity of those responsible for commissioning, designing, and constructing buildings, Architecture since 1400 provides a sweeping, cross-cultural history of the built environment over six centuries.
Phenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern
Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics
What happens if we abandon the assumption that a person is a discrete, world-making agent who acts on and creates place? This, Monique Allewaert contends, is precisely what occurred on eighteenth-century American plantations, where labor practices and ecological particularities threatened the literal and conceptual boundaries that separated persons from the natural world.
Integrating political philosophy and ecocriticism with literary analysis, Ariel’s Ecology explores the forms of personhood that developed out of New World plantations, from Georgia and Florida through Jamaica to Haiti and extending into colonial metropoles such as Philadelphia. Allewaert’s examination of the writings of naturalists, novelists, and poets; the oral stories of Africans in the diaspora; and Afro-American fetish artifacts shows that persons in American plantation spaces were pulled into a web of environmental stresses, ranging from humidity to the demand for sugar. This in turn gave rise to modes of personhood explicitly attuned to human beings’ interrelation with nonhuman forces in a process we might call ecological.
Certainly the possibility that colonial life revokes human agency haunts works from Shakespeare’s Tempest and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws to Spivak’s theories of subalternity. In Allewaert’s interpretation, the transformation of colonial subjectivity into ecological personhood is not a nightmare; it is, rather, a mode of existence until now only glimmering in Che Guevara’s dictum that postcolonial resistance is synonymous with “perfect knowledge of the ground.”