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Scattering of the cherry blossoms - An Ethnographic avalanche

Output: Contribution to conferencePaper

SCATTERING OF THE FRAGILE CHERRY BLOSSOMS is the title of my postdoctoral research project. The project started two year ago when I was in Harajuku, Tokyo. Teenagers were parading in challenging outfits: mixtures of Britpunk with samurai clothing and disco high heels. I entered a shop which was a perfect replica of a San Francisco hippy shop, with rainbow colors, peace signs and Navajo art. Going through the incense varieties I suddenly bumped into a wardrobe filled with SS uniforms, covered with nazi-symbols, gas helmets with swastika signs.

To me, as Fabian recalls, this moment in the shop set off an ethnographic avalanche (Fabian 1990): What to think of these ideological contrasts within one shop? What position do they represent? In our Western experience the two sides of the room represent two opposite ideologies. But not here, not for these youngsters.

What is it with these Japanese young people? Is it a lack of historical knowledge? Do they imitate without knowing the ideological ethics of these SS uniforms? Is it fashion, or is it an individual cry in a society characterized by hierarchy, social stress? Furthermore, do subcultures travel cross-culturally? What is the impact of a specific local context? Why is this combination, Navajo art and SS uniforms, from a western perspective, hardly possible? Why is it that it fascinates me?

During this lecture I will not be able to answer these questions, but I would like to talk about the way I have related to these questions so far.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2011

ID: 5433427