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Reproduction Without End: The Gendered Labor of Japanese High Growth Cinema


To refer to the Japanese postwar collapses multiple postwars into a single entity. This dissertation works to further distinguish Japanese cinema’s postwars by advocating for attention to “high growth cinema.” High growth’s political economy, especially at its peak in the Shōwa Genroku, reorganized Japanese social life, nowhere more so than within the labor paradigm. I argue that the patterns of reproduction—where reproduction is understood both as a social technology and a cinematic technique—that proliferate in high growth cinema implicate the sexual division of labor not as secondary or supplemental, but as fundamental to the reorganization of life in Japan at this moment. It is these reproductions that articulate a shift in conceptualizations of “life” itself, which move from a biological notion of survival toward a social investment in the “good life.”

Each of the dissertation’s four chapters develops high growth’s reproductive techniques. Following a discussion of the postwar and the fixation on its ends, Mikio Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) models the reproductive labor articulated in the rehearsals of the film’s returns to the scene of ascension. The second chapter looks at pink film director Hamano Sachi, in whom pornography and autobiography’s desire for visibility collaborate to reproduce her problem of being woman in the Japanese film industry. A third chapter on Tōei’s ninkyō films attends to their technique of seriality, and the serial star figure in Takakura Ken in particular, as a mechanism to stage a defense of male labor. The final chapter turns to the collaborations of art film director Yoshida Kijū and his actress-wife Okada Mariko to draw together the threads across the dissertation that link direction to male authority, implicating the reproduction of Yoshida’s dialectics and his associations with “transformation” in the affirmation of a male labor force, even in the active reproduction of its disavowal.

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