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Guilt, Nostalgia, and Victimhood: Korea in the Japanese Theatrical Imagination


How has post-war Japanese theatre grappled with Japanese responsibility for its imperialistic/militaristic past in Asia, and for institutionalized discrimination against resident minorities? Using the tools of guilt, nostalgia, and the valorization of victimhood that are embedded in the idea of hōgan biiki (sympathy for the loser/victims), Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei here analyzes Japan's often contradictory, flip-flopping self-image as both victimizer and victim in relation to Korea and resident Koreans. Looking at both mainstream and alternative performances, her article suggests that despite attempts to discuss these issues openly, most theatre artists actually present images that soften or displace responsibility for the past. Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei is Professor Emerita of Theatre at UCLA, and was recently a Research Fellow at the Institute for Interweaving Performance Cultures, Freie Universität, Berlin. An authority on post-war Japanese and cross-cultural performance, she is also a translator, director, and award-winning playwright. Her books include Unspeakable Acts: the Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan and the co-authored Theatre Histories: an Introduction. She has published numerous articles and presented papers and keynotes throughout the world. Professor Sorgenfrei is Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal and Editor of the Association for Asian Performance Newsletter.

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New Theatre Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0266-464X
  • EISSN: 1474-0613
  • URL: /core/journals/new-theatre-quarterly
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