The IAFOR Academic Review | Volume 1 | Issue 5
Editorial Committee Introduction
One of the central missions of The International Academic Forum or IAFOR is to provide avenues for academics and researchers to explore international, intercultural and interdisciplinary approaches. One of the ways in which we do this is through our in-house magazine Eye, our various conference proceedings, our peer reviewed journals, and now beginning in 2015, our special editions of the IAFOR Academic Review.
In this, the fifth issue of the IAFOR Academic Review, we bring together a selection of the most interesting contributions from our two most recent Asian Conferences on Cultural Studies. The papers selected by the editorial committee for this special edition certainly reflect the international, intercultural and interdisciplinary approach of the forum.
Samantha May is a Canadian anthropologist and linguist attending the Comparative Regional Culture doctoral program at the University of the Ryukyus, Japan. Her current focus is on the revitalization of Uchinaaguchi, an Okinawan language, and its place in the Okinawan martial arts community. In her paper, Practicing Peace: The International Okinawan Martial Arts Community as a Community of Practice, May addresses how both economists and academics have noted the simultaneous tendency towards globalization and localization in recent decades. May contends that, with the increasingly globalized economy, advances in communications technology seem to bring us together only bring us close enough to recognize our fundamental differences. In this situation, internal divides along cultural, linguistic, political and economic lines become as sharp and clear as geographic boundaries used to be. In such circumstances, “peace” is often thought of as merely the absence of conflict between divergent groups. May argues that with the emergence of worldwide media we have also fueled a new ability to form globally connected communities of practice based on activities with local cultural roots. Using Wenger’s (2014) community of practice theory, May examines the domain, community, practice and lexicon of the international Okinawan martial arts community through participant observation and interview and survey data, and reveals the potential role communities of practice have in facilitating transnational cooperative structures. May proposes that in this way, peace may be visualized not as a passive state of non-conflict, but as an active and creative practice based on voluntary membership in a worldwide community.
Roberto Bertoni is Associate Professor in Italian and Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. He has previously published on Italian post World War 2 topics, and has translated a number of Irish authors into the Italian language. In the first, shorter section of his paper Aspects of Italian Buddhist Presence and Poetry, he briefly informs on how Buddhism was imported into Italy. Bertoni notes that the Italian form of Buddhism involves, about 90,000 Asian migrants, and 100,000 Italian nationals. He suggests that as a cultural borderland, Italian Buddhism, like all forms of Western Buddhism, implies an adaptation to living abroad for Eastern migrants on one hand, as well as a conversion away from Christianity to a new religious dimension, for Westerners. Becoming is also a pronounced aspect since the Buddhist spiritual itinerary is one of transformation and sharing is shown by a sense of community in the various Sanghas and lay associations. Bertoni shows that Italian Buddhism is in many cases a socially committed construct, and this also constitutes a sharing dimension. He views the ‘Borderlands’ in this context as being mainly re connected to the reworking of identity. The second and longer section of Bertoni’s paper focuses on a particular case of border identity that can be seen among the contemporary poets inspired by Buddhism. Some of them are shown to acquire new Asian-influenced writing identities whilst others leave their Buddhist spiritually in the background of their poetics or have built inter-texts of Italian classics and Asian spiritual texts. The theoretical background of Bertoni’s paper, in addition to the exploration of texts that deal with the diffusion of Buddhism in the West, is mainly on the concepts of hybridization, neo-Orientalism, and intertextuality.
Michaela Weiss teaches American literature and Literary Criticism at the Institute of Foreign Languages, SIlesian University in Opava, Czech Republic. She works also as a translator and editor. Her research concentrates on Jewish American fiction and gender identity. In the past she has published a monograph Jewishness as Humanism in Bernard Malamud’s Fiction (2010) and essays on both ethnic and gender identity in contemporary fiction. Wiess’s paper Jeanette Winterson’s Stone Gods as Trans-world and Trans-gender Dystopia published in this edition, analyzes the dystopian apocalyptic vision of human civilization in the novel The Stone Gods by the contemporary British writer Jeanette Winterson. This postmodern narrative blends the world’s colonial past with its potentially colonial future, as mankind is attempts to colonize a new planet. Wiess contends that while Winterson’s novel is not innovative when it comes to the formal aspects of dystopias, she manages to create a sense of fluid and omnipresent history that is constantly blended into the present, bringing into focus men’s self-destructive tendencies. In her critique, Wiess points out the narrative that Winterson develops is not linear or chronological and consists of several stories set in various times and spaces which are interconnected not only by the common theme of human greed and irresponsible economic and anti-ecological behavior, but also by the central character Billie/Billy Crusoe. Wiess outlines how Winterson in The Stone Gods follows the main gender-bending motif of Virginia Woolf’s cult novel Orlando, as the character Billie chooses her partners according to their personality, not gender or biological sex. She develops the paper through the lens of the dystopian, nonlinear and often didactic tone of the novel, and how it is interwoven with poetic passages depicting homosexual romantic love, a constant theme explored by Winterson, even though in this case it concerns love between a human and a robot.
Emma Nicoletti is a doctoral candidate in the School of Social and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia, her research interests include science fiction, ecocriticism, cyberculture and poststructuralism. Her paper Becoming-other to Belong: Radical Eco-Cosmopolitanism in Jeff Noon’s Nymphomation, focuses on the science fiction novels of British author Jeff Noon, and their representation of the relationship between the human and nonhuman other in cultures dominated by virtual reality technology. Nicoletti reads Jeff Noon’s Nymphomation as offering a model of a radical eco-cosmopolitan subjectivity that enjoins a sense of community and belonging, traversing the geographical and ideological boundaries associated with nationality, ethnicity, race, gender and species. She argues that the eco-cosmopolitan subjectivity represented in this novel requires the hero to dispense with his self-possession and self-assured independence, and instead open himself to the human and nonhuman other in a relation of inter-dependence, so as to be able to belong to a globally-rendered, human-changed environment. Her contention is that the process of opening oneself to the other as transformative for the individual, the society and the environment.
Hui-Chun Li from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, at the National Sun-Yat Sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan researches within the academic space of cultural and literary studies with respect to the post-human, Cyberspace, Utopian Imagination, and postmodernism. In her paper Confinement and Transgression in Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Ms Li considers that society is an institution which, in order to achieve its goal, executes violent measures to discipline or confine the deviant. This collision between self and society is depicted in Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in which John Proctor and Yank, each of the play’s protagonists, is defiant respectively to theocracy and capitalism. Li’s paper aims to situate both Yank and Proctor as cultural products manufactured by utopian desires, respectively under cultural conditions of an Industrial society and Salem’s theocracy. In it she adopts Michel Foucault’s concept of utopia and heterotopia to look at Yank’s transgression and his critical position in criticizing the bourgeois society. Li argues that the commercialized bourgeois space is a realized utopia whereas the cage on the ship, the prison, and the zoo are heterotopias, which serve as a critique to the degenerated utopian society itself. She suggests that while Yank exchanges his life for a noble protest against a state of inertia manufactured by capitalism, Proctor exchanges his life for others’ lives imperiled by theocracy. Li filters this through the light of Foucauldian rarefaction of discourse, and analyzes how Salem’s theocracy silences Proctor’s discourse through judicial inquisition and exclusion of the deviated. She reveals that, as much as Yank’s subversion to a capitalist space incessantly silences his voice, Proctor’s defiance to court’s order and God’s will transgresses the totality of theocracy and strives to give a voice to truth.
Finally the editorial committee of the IAFOR International Academic Review would like to thank our conference chairs and advisors Professors Baden Offord, Koichi Iwabuchi and Donald E. Hall for their continual guidance with our Cultural Studies conference program and publications. We also would like to thank the many delegates who attended our conferences and who submitted academic papers to our previous proceedings.
Michael Liam Kedzlie
The IAFOR Academic Review