Are we what we eat? What does food reveal about how we live and how we think of ourselves in relation to others? Why do people have a strong attachment to their own cuisine and an aversion to the foodways of others? In this engaging account of the crucial significance rice has for the Japanese, Rice as Self examines how people use the metaphor of a principal food in concepAre we what we eat? What does food reveal about how we live and how we think of ourselves in relation to others? Why do people have a strong attachment to their own cuisine and an aversion to the foodways of others? In this engaging account of the crucial significance rice has for the Japanese, Rice as Self examines how people use the metaphor of a principal food in conceptualizing themselves in relation to other peoples. Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney traces the changing contours that the Japanese notion of the self has taken as different historical Others--whether Chinese or Westerner--have emerged, and shows how rice and rice paddies have served as the vehicle for this deliberation. Using Japan as an example, she proposes a new cross-cultural model for the interpretation of the self and other....
|Title||:||Rice as Self: Japanese Identities Through Time|
|Number of Pages||:||200 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Rice as Self: Japanese Identities Through Time Reviews
I've never read a book on Japanese history before. But I have to do a presentation on Rice as Self: Japanese Identities through Time for my historical reresearchethods class in a couple weeks so I went ahead and read it this week. I thought it might be fairly enjoyable, I was looking forward to seeing how things changed over time by examining this one specific part of a culture and seeing how it's changes were a reflection of the changing society around it. But alas this was not the book that Ohnuki-Tierney wrote.I know very little about Japanese history, except where it intermingled with Chinese history, particularly during the Tang. In her book the author refers to the great influence the Tang dynasty had on Japan, how the Japanese took a lot of the Chinese culture and adapted it as their own. The "highly developed Tang China between the 5th and 7th centuries" when the Tang did not start until the 7th century lasting from 618-906CE. Now when you're making the point that the Chinese had such a huge influence during this time period how hard is it to look up and find out the dates of the dynasty? I mean to be off by TWO HUNDRED YEARS, when the dynasty only lasted for 300 is inexcusable. The fact that Princeton Press published this and no one caught it is to say the least a little disconcerting.The other thing she mentioned that I did know a bit about, and really not that much, but she talked about how in Greek mythology the hunter was viewed as the Male ideal and said how Hercules was "the prototype of man the hunter" forgetting or ignoring Artemis the GODDESS OF THE HUNT!So reading this book and only coming across two things I did know about and having them be incorrect makes me a little concerned about the rest of the book. How much should I trust the statements that are made?The book is "Historical Anthropology" she states how most historical anthropology focuses only on the recent past but she intents do look at the whole of Japanese history and have a much broader scope than that. She does go back as far as 800CE, but only devotes about 15 of her 130 pages to the far past, the majority of the book focuses on the present and the recent past. Unlike other anthropology books I have read there seems to have been no field work done for this book, being Japanese and being able to read Japanese seems to be her qualifications for writing. All her theories and ideas are based on secondary scholarship the majority of which is Japanese. It seems her intention with her book is to familiarize the Western audience with current Japanese scholarship, this she states in the beginning of the book, and this goal I would say she meets very well. However at the end of the book she wrwriteshat the book is for the Japanese, if this were true why is it not written in Japanese with a Japanese publisher, clearly this is a book she intended for Western audiences. However, despite all the initial criticism I needed to get out of my system there were some quite interesting things that came out of the book. One of the most interesting things for me was in her look at cosmology and deities she identified a "Stranger Deity who was responsible for bringing wealth (often in the symbolic form or rice, though just as often not) to good and deserving people. This idea of the stranger Deity she said was a representation of the interactions between Japanese people and the other cultures around them, particularly the Chinese and later the Europeans. The idea of the deified other, quite a different idea, as a source of goodness and wealth does quite a lot to explain the adaptability of Japanese culture and the inclusion of foreign ideas. It's quite a removal to the more typical idea of the "foreign devil". I did quite like the idea of building a national identity in how your nation or people relates to another. Of course in discussing this nothing was said about the fact that for the most part international affairs was strictly the work of the elite.She also went into a lot of detail about the importance of Imperial rites with the rice harvest, and the fact that rice was used to pay taxes for most of the Imperial era. She challenged the notion that rice was always the food of the Japanese people and said during this time most farmers grew the rice for taxation purposes rather than consuming themselves. It was also interesting to note that after the introduction of money as a currency money was considered "dirty" whereas rice wealth was always considered "clean". She attributed this to the divine nature of rice associated with the people. However I wonder if the fact that it was used for taxes and therefore how the Imperial elite measured their wealth, that it was in their interest to keep that type of wealth to be good. I am conflicted about this book, I can see the things I should be presenting to the class about it, the way things are presented as discourses the strategies and approaches that she uses, however I'm not entirely sure how successful they were, I don't feel like I know much more about the Japanese people through time than I did before. I know a little more about the myths, a rite, and the fact that they didn't want to import Californian rice in the 80's and 90's. I feel that she spent more time demonstrating why it was a good metaphor to be using and not enough time actually using it. Now I have to return the book to the library for a week and then check it out and try and construct a decent 20 minute presentation on it.
Lots of good historical stuff here, and info on ritual, the connections of emperor to rice, and rice "souls." I am still a bit uncomfortable with the comparative structuralist dimension--the "west and the rest" paradigm that doesn't acknowledge multiple wests, and the bagginess of the category of the "other" as an inarticulate position, not a thing with its own semantics (even if they are not readable to the anthropoloogist).
I decided to pick up this book after reading a good review by Donald Richie. It's a bit too academic for me, but it is an interesting look into the Japanese attitude to rice. This book actually turned out to be a good resource for one of my translation jobs, so I'm glad I was reading it. Admittedly, I did sort of tune out in some parts, but overall recommended reading.
I love this book. I've always been interguied by all things japanese and this book explains how important rice is to japanese culture. it shows you that rice isn't just food. it's currency. it's the soul of the deities and it's a way of life. it embodies the Japanese mam and himself.