Against hybridity

Kelsky, Karen, “Intimate Ideologies: Transnational Theory and Japan’s ‘Yellow Cabs’.” Public Culture 14 (1994): 465-478.

There are lovely photographs in this journal as well but I cannot keep all old journal issues. I had kept this one for this piece, which “examines the larger racial and national ideologies that inform the yellow cab discourse.” (466) The author says:

The more I observe the yellow cabs and the rhetoric surrounding them the more I am convinced that they pose a challenge to a type of contemporary Western theory which celebrates the ‘creativity,’ ‘chaos,’ and ‘liberation’ to be found at points of interracial, intercultural, transnational contact on the postmodern borderlands. (466)

She says these sexual encounters “suggest not chaos but calculation, not interracial intimacy but exploitation, not liberation but submission to ancient and enduring stereotypes of race and nation.” (466)

These encounters and the discourse about them offer insight into ways in which “new forms of transnational, cosmopolitan cultural traffic . . . facilitate, even create, new forms of control and of desire. (466)

A bit further on there are quotations from M. Yoshim,oto who points out that “in the name of internationalization, any direct encounter with the Other is carefully avoided. Instead, the ultimate goal of internationalization is to transform the real into the imaginary.” (See Yoshimoto, “The postmodern and Mass Images in Japan,” Public Culture 1, no. 2 [1989], 22.)

The foreign male is commodified and becomes an “imaginary” symbol within a domestic gender struggle between Japanese women and men . . . the gaijin lover is a “free-floating signifier” who signifies not intimacy and understanding but rather “the erasure of concrete social situations from the outside world” (Yoshimoto).

These “yellow cabs” function not within a Japanese space of festivals and reciprocity, but rather roam the borderlands between regimes, races, and nations. But they do not disrupt stereotypes: both sides of the interaction insist on the otherness of the Other.

Kelsky cites Torgovnick who also points out that contact and polyphony are not inherently liberating — and furthermore, if the carnivalesque means you cannot tell who is whom, then [colonial] contact is not carnival since it works to preserve distinctions.

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