“Mapping the Transnational Genesis of the Post-War Japanese Animation Field: A Case Study of the Production of Legend of the White Snake (1958) "

Presented By: Seio Nakajima, Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies

I present a sociological case study of the production of Legend of the White Snake (Hakujaden, dir. Yabushita Taiji, 1958). Past studies have effectively highlighted the existence of the transnational—Japan-Hong Kong-China—nexus surrounding its production. However, in a rush to go beyond “methodological nationalism” (Beck), in integrating “textual” and “institutional” analyses, they have often presented simplistic geopolitical arguments; a typical study would argue that the “non-authentic” depiction of Chinese culture in Legend of the White Snake was the result of the strategic move by the Japanese film industry to become the leader in animation production in the Asian region by having distinctive Japanese translation of Chinese culture. However, such a “reflection theory” entails a danger of falling into a tautology of explaining reality solely by rational-choice. To avoid this pitfall, I develop an approach that more effectively integrates textual and institutional aspects. This is done by putting to work two interrelated but distinct approaches in sociology: Pierre Bourdieu's concept of the “field of cultural production” and the “theory of fields” in economic sociology and organizational analysis. My central argument is that even when the scope of analysis is transnational, without the detailed mapping of the field of cultural production of domestic industry (e.g., position and reputational status of Toei Animation Studio within the field of cultural production of all the film studios existing in Japan at the time, distinctive dispositional “habitus” and career “trajectory” of the managers and the workers of the film studio as compared to those of other existing studios), the analysis remains within the “methodological nationalism” in the sense it takes the transnational action of a certain film studio as somehow representing monolithic, Japanese, national geopolitical concerns.