January 22 Talk by Professor Miho Matsugu

Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop presents:

“The Way I Think is My Own. I’m Neither Feminist Nor Lesbian”: Some Questions on Murakami Haruki’s 1Q84 [ichi-kyû-hachi-yon]

(to read the paper, click here)

Miho Matsugu

 (Assistant Professor, DePaul University)

with a response offered by 

Jae Yon Lee

(Ph.D. Candidate, EALC, University of Chicago)


January 22 (Friday) 

3:00-5:00 p.m.

Judd Hall 313

5835 South Kimbark Avenue

Chicago, IL 60637



 In this presentation, I explore how Murakami Haruki gives the heroine of his 2009 work, the million-selling 1Q84 [ichi-kyû-hachi-yon], her individuality by naturalizing the marginalization of lesbian desire and the rejection of lesbian subjectivity. Aomame is a killer of men who abuse women. Her only intimate sexual and emotional relationship was with a woman who was abused by her husband and then committed suicide. But Aomame says she is “neither feminist nor lesbian,” viewing her relationship with the woman as an extension of friendship, and perpetuating her memory as a pure object of nostalgic longing. Like many Murakami protagonists, her lonely, independent and free individuality appears crafted to appeal to readers from around the world; as Rebecca Sutter points out in her book on his literature, Murakami’s characters often try “to be ‘singular’ without falling into particularism or exceptionalism and to construct their selfhood by engaging with otherness.” In Aomame, Murakami uses this familiar tactic – keying off otherness to set up a character — to draw readers into feelings of loss, helplessness, and, finally, healing as an individual. Lesbianism is a source of allure and a tool to dramatize the protagonist’s achievement of becoming an irreplaceable free individual, the hard-boiled “cool and tough” female assassin Aomame.

In reading 1Q84 for this workshop, I will address several questions. How does Murakami’s sentimentalization of the heroine’s lesbian experience mark a political position that both fits into the recent reactionary nationalist movement in Japan and bolsters corporate profits? Oguma Eiji points out that Japan’s last two decades have seen the emergence of new grass-roots conservative populism among unorganized free-floating individuals in urban areas, as symbolized in the rapid increase of independent voters (mutôha-sô). And how does this trend feed Murakami’s huge popularity, as demonstrated by this novel’s massive selling power despite a lackluster publishing environment?

Lastly this is my first attempt to articulate a critical perspective on this most popular and influential Japanese writer whose creations have become mythologies of our time, and no doubt there are holes and ripples in my argument. I will upload my paper for this workshop soon and would greatly appreciate your feedback before or during/after the workshop.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list and receive workshop updates, please contact jiyoung22@uchicago.edu

Faculty sponsors: Michael Bourdaghs, Paola Iovene 

The workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Ji Young Kim (jiyoung22@uchicago.edu) or Ling Zhang (ling1@uchicago.edu)


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