Thesis (Ph.D)

Beyond common sense : negotiating constructions of sexuality and gender in Japan


This thesis is concerned with lifestyles in Japan that have hitherto remained largely unreported. The main research categories are gay men, lesbian women, single men and women, and feminist men and women. In addition attention is given to transvestites, transsexuals and hermaphrodites. The main aim of the thesis is to provide an ethnography of the lives of the various categories, which is a new angle from which to view Japanese society. The research methods consist of participant observation and in depth open-ended free attitude interviews. Participant observation in this case includes all aspects of people's life: personal relationships and reading what people from the categories say they read. In addition I developed experiential research, i.e. experiencing what informants may experience. The major question from which the research started out is that of how people whose feelings, ideas or lifestyles do not agree with heterosexual marriage cope with life in a society in which everyone is expected to marry. In this sense the research goes a step beyond what much of anthropology does: establishing what are more or less standard lifestyles in a particular culture. After discussing the position of marriage in Japanese society in chapter three, including political and legal aspects, this thesis discusses how people of the various research categories may try to fit in with the idea that one should marry by entering marriage and the problems this may give in chapter four. In chapter five alternative lifestyles are discussed and in six ways of dealing with an outside world that has little understanding ~ people with alternative lifestyles, feelings, or ideas. In chapter seven ways in which the various categories are regarded and relate to each other, especially the relations between gender and sexuality and discourses of sex and sexual activites are investigated, as well as debates within and between individual and circles consisting of people from the various categories. In conclusion four themes, that played a role in the background throughout the ethnographic body of the thesis, are drawn together: 1) space, gender and sexuality, 2) constructions of homosexuality, .3) selves, and 4) changes: developments that took place while the research was conducted and have continued since.

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Lunsing, Wim

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Social Sciences


Year: 1995


Austrian Ministry for Research and Science : grant
Japanese Ministry for Education : grant
Japan Foundation Endowment Fund : grant
Erasmus : grant

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