In-Person Event: Irene González-López on The Prostitute and the Postwar Quest for Modernity in Japanese Cinema, Wednesday March 29th, Oxford Brookes University

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We will be pleased to welcome Irene González-López of Birkbeck, University of London, to deliver a Europe Japan Research Centre talk at Oxford Brookes University on Wednesday 29th March. The title of her talk is 'Selling Sex in Japanese Cinema: The prostitute and the postwar quest for modernity'. The talk will take place from 5-6:30 pm, in person at Oxford Brookes' Gipsy Lane campus, in the John Henry Brookes Building, room JHB301.
As always, we thank our sponsors, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, for their support for our programme.
In Japan’s postwar quest for modernity, the ban of the state-regulated system of prostitution enacted in 1956—the year in which Japan joined the United Nations—can be regarded as a symbolic milestone in the country’s postwar quest for modernity. The ever-changing sex industry and its contested social perceptions and representations serve as a vantage point to the tumultuous transformations of postwar Japan. Given the relevance of cinema among the domestic cultural industries of the time, the portrayal of sex workers in film deserves further examination.This lecture will explore the cinematic trope of the prostitute as one of the most versatile allegories of Japan’s postwar quest for modernity. Films about sex workers and the discussions that emerged around these films served as a proxy for the debates over what it meant to become modern and as an outlet for the anxieties and hopes that such endeavours triggered indifferent audiences. The selected case studies depict different types of sex workers (streetwalker, brothel worker, and call girl), overlapping with other politically charged female tropes (such as mother, drifter, and wife), and reflect meaningful variations across genre and time. Ultimately, this lecture seeks to provide new perspectives into the study of the gender politics of Japanese cinema while fostering our understanding of the relation between the radical socio-economic transformations of postwar Japan and the performance of gender and sexuality.