Gabriella Lukacs Associate Professor
I am a cultural anthropologist whose research explores the themes of mass media (television) new media technologies (Internet, cellular phones), capitalism, subjectivity, labor, and neoliberal governmentality in contemporary Japan.
My first book, Scripted Affects, Branded Selves analyzes post-signification television in 1990s Japan. It focuses on late 1980s development of a new primetime serial, the trendy drama. It interprets the genre as a shift in the Japanese television industry from producing narrative-based entertainment to selling lifestyle.
My current project continues to examine questions of subjectivity and capitalism but it focuses on new media technologies. The manuscript I am presently working on examines new labor subjectivities such as the net idols who become famous by posting their photos and diaries on the web, cell phone novelists whose novels have recently come to dominate literary bestseller lists, and entrepreneurial homemakers who conjure wealth from day trading. I posit that these new labor subjectivities bring into sharp focus changes in the meanings, forms, and conditions of work.
I teach courses on the subjects of mass culture theory and methods, digital media theory, work and play, consumer culture, and Japan in the twentieth century.
Media and Japan
My book, Scripted Affects, Branded Selves: Television, Subjectivity, and Capitalism in 1990s Japan (Duke University Press, 2010), analyzes the development of a new primetime serial called “trendy drama” as the Japanese television industry’s ingenious response to market fragmentation. Integrating a political-economic analysis of television production with reception research, Scripted Affects, Branded Selves suggests that the trendy drama marked a shift in the Japanese television industry from offering story-driven entertainment (signification) to producing lifestyle-oriented programming (affect). The book argues that by capitalizing on the semantic fluidity of the notion of lifestyle, commercial television networks were capable of uniting viewers into new affective alliances that, in turn, helped them bury anxieties over changing class relations in the wake of the prolonged economic recession.
My work on the global circulation of trendy dramas (chapter 6 of my book) sparked my interest in media globalization. I wrote an essay titled “Iron Chef around the world Japanese food television, soft power, and cultural globalization.” In the essay, I use the case of Iron Chef as an entry point to discuss the analytical limitations of the soft power discourse in interpreting shifting patterns of cultural globalization. I argue that this discourse fails to capture the complexities of how cable networks use and how viewers respond to imported media entertainment. I conclude that soft power is a tale of Euro- American modernity that renationalizes transnational cultural traffic in reaction to anxieties that the decentering forces of global capitalism will corrupt the sovereignty of the nation-state. The essay was published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies 13(4):1-18.
The manuscript I am presently working on explores new forms of Internet-based entrepreneurship that have evolved in the 1990s, a period in which the economic recession further narrowed young people’s opportunities for career-track employment while information technologies were expanding their opportunities for new forms of work. I examine new labor subjectivities such as the net idols who become famous by posting their photos and diaries on the web, cell phone novelists whose novels have recently come to dominate literary bestseller lists, and entrepreneurial homemakers who conjure wealth from day trading. These new labor subjectivities, I argue, bring into sharp focus significant changes in the meanings, forms, and conditions of work. Equally important, they highlight the emergence of a new form of rationality within which individuals accept and even celebrate the end of job security as a marker of a shift from the postwar order of “working to find pleasure” to the neoliberal imperative to “find pleasure in work.” This manuscript is provisionally titled Diva Entrepreneurs: Gender, Labor, and New Technologies in Contemporary Japan.
Another project I am currently working on is an edited volume based on a symposium I organized at Pitt in March 2010. The symposium, “Youth, Labor, and Neoliberal Governmentality in East Asia,” investigated how the deregulation of national economies affected young people in East Asia. As opposed to understanding youth unemployment and underemployment as social anomalies, participants of the symposium analyzed these phenomena as the new faces of labor. We asked what it meant for youth to become part of the workforce in a context in which forces of economic deregulation simultaneously narrow down opportunities for secure employment and unleash possibilities for new forms of work that did not offer job security but were more conducive of creativity.For more information, please visit: http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/asc/conference/ youthandlabor/index.html.
forthcoming. Employment as lifestyle in 1990s workplace dramas. In Global Futures in East Asia,edited by Ann Anagnost, Andrea Arai, and Hai Ren. Stanford University Press.
2010 Scripted Affects, Branded Selves: Television, Subjectivity, and Capitalism in 1990s Japan. Duke University Press.
2010 Iron Chef around the world: Japanese food television, soft power, and cultural globalization . International Journal of Cultural Studies 13(4):1-18)
2010 Dream labor in dream factory: Japanese television in the era of market fragmentation. In Television, Japan, Globalization, edited by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto. The University of Michigan Press
This course aims to introduce students to twentieth century Japanese history, contemporary culture and social institutions. It will give students a range of different exposures-using scholarly books, essays, fiction and film-to look at various conditions and aspects of Japanese culture and everyday life: imperialism, World War II, high economic growth, middle class society, gender relations, education, youth crime, and mass culture. The special focus of this class (which we will spend two weeks on) is Japanese mass culture that is increasingly being exported around the world. We will consider the postwar history of Japanese mass culture and the conditions of and reasons for its growing popularity abroad. We will examine what audiences are most receptive to it, which genres translate better than others, and what changes are made in the process of translation.
Contemporary Anthropological Theory
In the last twenty five years, significant theoretical shifts have occurred within cultural anthropology, leading to and beyond the so-called post-modernist approaches. There was first a decline of encompassing "grand theories," followed by a stress on local forms of knowledge and practice as the object of our investigations. Later there have been a series of attempts at reconstructive theorizing either generally or in specific arenas, for example, in political anthropology and in historical anthropology. This course will explore medical anthropology, cognition and culture, the anthropology of religion, gender and modernity, ecology and development studies, globalization, political economy, and practice theory, including theories of violence and assist students critically to evaluate some of these trends. Attention will be paid to current issues of globalization and the creation or assertion of new forms of identity, local and transnational, in geopolitical contexts; as well as to reconstructive theories in general, for example in the sphere of religion and ritual, and studies of “development” and NGOs, environmental issues and disaster studies, and theories in the area of economic anthropology and neo-liberalism, as well as classic exchange theory and ecology. Prerequisites: This course is for 2nd or 3rd year Anthropology graduate students and others interested.