On Other Surfaces #4

Table of Contents

Theories of Japanese culture have always been described as “histories of the reception of foreign cultures,” and their variations have been largely classified into two groups. The first is a dialectic between “construction” and “generation,” while the second is a “myth of tolerance.” However, both theories have their flaws. The former argues that foreign cultures are constructive and Japanese culture is generative, which has been the subject of numerous debates regarding the nature of national character and simple theories of the Japanese people. The latter has difficulty providing a theoretical answer to the question of the origin of tolerance in Japanese culture.
While critically considering these two theories of Japanese culture, this article updates the dialectic between “construction” and “generation” as well as the “myth of tolerance” into a new schema. First, the dialectic between “construction” and “generation” can be replaced by a dialectic between “site” and “non-site,” which is a schema presented in the analysis of the Suijaku Mandala. Next, the “myth of tolerance” can be replaced by the “inscription of disjuncture,” based on Kojin Karatani’s theory of the kanji-kana mixed style, Leo Steinberg’s analysis of Robert Rauschenberg, and “images of manifestation” in Suijaku art. In this case, the “inscription of disjuncture” is an écriture that separates and preserves differing cultures and principles, and allows them to coexist on the same plane.