ABSTRACT of the research project BETWATE:
Since the 1990s, Japan has become the most popular “eastern” country in Italy, while, on the other hand, Italy has turned into the most attractive “western” country in Japan, especially among women and youth.
This research project will investigate the reasons of this reciprocal popularity by focusing on mutual discourses and practices regarding “Japan” and “the East” in Italy, and regarding “Italy” and “the West” in Japan, respectively. It will analyse the most influential intersections of Japan-Italy relations from the late nineteenth century to the present, in relation to issues of national/regional/global identity, culture, and power. In order to map the imagined geography of “Japan“ and “Italy“ as seen from both sides, historical investigation will be conducted on the genealogy (1860s-1890s), climax (1930s-1940s), and maturation (1960s-1980s) of modern Italy-Japan relations. This will be followed by an ethnographic investigation of the social practices involved in the present popularity of “J-culture“ (animation, comics, videogames) in Italy, and of the “Italy boom“ (food, fashion, life-style) in Japan. Particular attention will be paid to the renegotiation between new transcultural identity processes on the local level and institutionalised nation-branding of the “Cool Japan“ and of the “Made in Italy” in the globalised market.
The inter-disciplinary perspective adopted by this study is aimed at contributing to critical enquiry into the notions of “the West” (Occidentalism) and of “the East” (Orientalism). It will focus on the interrelational, intersectional, and positional dynamics of mutual perceptions seen in Italy-Japan relations. The final scope is to elaborate an interrelational theory of Occidentalism, Orientalism, and self-Orientalism, as well as to attest the reproduction or dismissal of its hegemonic relevance, in accordance to the transnational imperatives induced by present regionalism in Europe/Asia and globalization in the world.