Emilie Yueh-yu YEH (Hong Kong Baptist University), Incriminating Spaces: Border Politics of Mukokuseki Asia, English/19 pages, October 2006.


Japan, the dominant economic and cultural power in East Asia, has always been fascinated with the West. Since the late 19th century, Japan began to position itself as a racial and cultural superior (the White race in Asia) to her Asian counterparts. Accordingly, Japanese propaganda films during WWII followed similar racial logic in terms of organizing the stories and the mode of representing non-Japanese Asians. Japanese modernity is usually upheld in these films to emphasize the importance of civilizing mission and to erase national and cultural borders between the Imperial Japan and the colonized East Asia. Japanese cinema of the 1990s, however, looks at East Asia in a more complicated manner. From copying Orientalist discourse to an attempt to forge positive images of the former colonies (Taiwan and Korea) or occupied territories (China), contemporary Japan's cine-Asia appears to be enthralled by a mukokuseki, borderless, sentimentality. Exotic Asian locations, peoples and cultures give these films a vivid transnationality, or statelessness mukokuseki. Mukokuseki refers to a cosmopolitan consumerism at the peak of Japan’s bubble economy. But this transgressive transnationality also owes a debt to mukokuseki action, a type of genre picture of the 1950s known for its fusion of western popular genres--James Bond, Westerns nd films noir. The paper asks where East Asia stands in this latest rendition of mukokuseki in recent Japanese films? A mirror of the underground black society? A postcolonial nostalgia? Or a manifestation of a destabilized, but still consumer-driven Japanese identity?