5 Comments
Jan 21Liked by Christopher Harding

Dear Dr. Harding, bravo! This is an article only you can write! I love how you take a contemporary phenomenon and transport it back to the experience of Jesuits visiting Japan some 500 years ago. I loved reading the first version published on UnHerd and enjoyed reading the adapted version!

The term “weeb” was new to me. Is it appropriate to understand it as “otaku” - a super-fan?

To me, an otaku has a lot of laudable qualities associated with it. One is to focus on a subject and dig deep, trying to know as much as possible about the subject with some degree of passion. Of course, narrow-mindedness is a possible trap and seclusion and the lack of social skills resulting from being “at home” too much is probably the true root of the term … however, looking at it positively, the devotion to a subject is something I respect.

Japan is, in a sense, very well suited for an otaku. Because if you truly want to access it as an outsider - gai-jin, you need to study very hard just to be able to access the information - yes, I am looking at your kanji - and there, an otaku’s grit might help. A breeze of social awareness and empathy is, of course, an asset that might ease the understanding of the rich shades of Japanese culture - and ours - but don’t underestimate an otaku :)

When I was in high school, I first encountered the arts of Japan, and I was mesmerized by the “different approach” to art. One might say that’s the appeal of the “exotic”; an otaku might say that the fascination runs deeper. However, that grip never let me go. The realization that there is another way of going about things. Perhaps that’s why the quote you have shared: “every man has a fairyland just beyond the compass of his horizon,” resonates with me so much. The ideal always seems to be one step removed from the current state. But isn’t that what keeps us going? What keeps us evolving? Let’s keep an open mind - and embrace the weebs!

Expand full comment
Jan 22Liked by Christopher Harding

https://anthropoetics.ucla.edu/ap1201/taylor/ well,, i flinched. What i wished to talk about, further readings of your Weaboo work have tended to persuade me that might not be such a good idea? While i continue to prevaricate then, or something like that, i'd like to introduce you to some intense work on matters Japanese from my *generative anthropology* colleague (or better, fellow GAnik) in Nagoya. The link is at top there because if i try to paste it down here, it automatically jumps back to the beginning.

Expand full comment