“Encountering Uchiyama Aki: On the Need for Situated Knowledge and Learning in Anime Studies"

Presented By: Patrick W. Galbraith, Senshū University in Tokyo

Much of the academic literature on anime focuses on textual analysis and reading for meaning, but one might question how texts are read in specific times and places. In this presentation, I argue that there is a need for situated knowledge and learning in anime studies, or encountering and learning from others in an attempt to access and share what they know. In many cases, this requires being in the field for extended periods, building relationships and trust and working through human interactions and material connections on the ground. This kind of fieldwork is time consuming, messy and without guarantees, but it can open us to new ways of seeing and being with anime. As an example, I discuss encountering Uchiyama Aki, a manga artist popular in Japan in the early 1980s and associated with “lolicon,” and struggling to understand how he and others saw this material in Japan back then and now, when concern is growing globally about manga and anime as “virtual child pornography.” Encountering Uchiyama Aki requires bracketing what one already “knows,” which can be difficult, but is ultimately necessary to access new perspectives. It is also urgent, given the potential for pathologization and criminalization of forms of anime, as well as its producers and consumers. An anthropological approach to anime might challenge what has become a moral position and turn us toward an ethics of encounter and learning with others and from their situated knowledge. Developing our own situated knowledge, we can take a position, ethically.