Writing the oriental woman : an examination of the representation of Japanese women in contemporary Australian crime fiction

Emanuel, Elizabeth Frances (2009) Writing the oriental woman : an examination of the representation of Japanese women in contemporary Australian crime fiction. Masters by Research by Creative Works, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

This study considers the challenges in representing women from other cultures in the crime fiction genre. The study is presented in two parts; an exegesis and a creative practice component consisting of a full length crime fiction novel, Batafurai. The exegesis examines the historical period of a section of the novel—post-war Japan—and how the area of research known as Occupation Studies provides an insight into the conditions of women during this period. The exegesis also examines selected postcolonial theory and its exposition of representations of the 'other' as a western construct designed to serve Eurocentric ends. The genre of crime fiction is reviewed, also, to determine how characters purportedly representing Oriental cultures are constricted by established stereotypes. Two case studies are examined to investigate whether these stereotypes are still apparent in contemporary Australian crime fiction. Finally, I discuss my own novel, Batafurai, to review how I represented people of Asian background, and whether my attempts to resist stereotype were successful.

My conclusion illustrates how novels written in the crime fiction genre are reliant on strategies that are action-focused, rather than character-based, and thus often use easily recognizable types to quickly establish frameworks for their stories. As a sub-set of popular fiction, crime fiction has a tendency to replicate rather than challenge established stereotypes. Where it does challenge stereotypes, it reflects a territory that popular culture has already visited, such as the 'female', 'black' or 'gay' detective. Crime fiction also has, as one of its central concerns, an interest in examining and reinforcing the notion of societal order. It repeatedly demonstrates that crime either does not pay or should not pay. One of the ways it does this is to contrast what is 'good', known and understood with what is 'bad', unknown, foreign or beyond our normal comprehension. In western culture, the east has traditionally been employed as the site of difference, and has been constantly used as a setting of contrast, excitement or fear. Crime fiction conforms to this pattern, using the east to add a richness and depth to what otherwise might become a 'dry' tale. However, when used in such a way, what is variously eastern, 'other' or Oriental can never be paramount, always falling to secondary side of the binary opposites (good/evil, known/unknown, redeemed/doomed) at work.

In an age of globalisation, the challenge for contemporary writers of popular fiction is to be responsive to an audience that demands respect for all cultures. Writers must demonstrate that they are sensitive to such concerns and can skillfully manage the tensions caused by the need to deliver work that operates within the parameters of the genre, and the desire to avoid offence to any cultural or ethnic group. In my work, my strategy to manage these tensions has been to create a back-story for my characters of Asian background, developing them above mere genre types, and to situate them with credibility in time and place through appropriate historical research.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 64475
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research by Creative Works)
Supervisor: Carson, Susan & Breen, Sally
Keywords: crime fiction, Japan, occupation studies, orientalism, Postcolonial Theory, stereotypes, war brides, women, World War II
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Nov 2013 07:08
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2013 23:54

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