Globalization and Japanese animation: Ethnography of American college students

Masatoshi Tominaga, University of Pennsylvania


The ways in which Japanese culture and society have been described in American society are highly contested terrain. In academia, one of the most influential and well-known theories of Japanese culture and society is Nihonjinron, the theory of Japanese uniqueness. Nihonjinron expresses the uniqueness of Japanese culture through leading intellectual leaders from both America and Japan. Certain famous Nihonjinron publications can be considered the classics of Japanese studies. Japanese and American scholars tend to emphasize the differences in Japanese culture, and the particular concern about the dissimilarities of cultures has become a traditional and conventional style in academia, especially in teaching foreign culture in colleges. This paper will serve as a cultural critique of the discourse of the uniqueness of Japanese culture. Since Japanese animation is presently one of the most popular elements of Japanese culture in America, examining how Japanese animation is negotiated by American college students in the community is the main theme of this study. The major point of this research is not to explain Japanese animation itself nor to scrutinize American students' extra-curricular activities in their campus life. Rather, the paper focuses on exploring the situated meanings about the perception of Japanese animation as they are constructed by American college students. A wide variety of voices in this ethnographic study participated in the discourse of culture, not as a single entity but as multiple beings having various dimensions in the context of class, race, age, gender, and ethnicity. This research examines the grassroots activities of college students who enjoy Japanese animation, and unveils the perception of Japanese animation through the students' views, as opposed to intellectual leaders' views. The data also challenges methodological inquiries of current area studies in teaching culture by acknowledging the significance of an increasingly globalized world.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Tominaga, Masatoshi, "Globalization and Japanese animation: Ethnography of American college students" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3055004.