Millie Creighton

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Japanese Irregular Workers in Protest: Freeters, Precarity and the Re-Articulation of class (2012)

The subject of my dissertation is Japanese freeters, youth who work part-time or move from job to job. Within Japan’s protracted economic downturn, freeters have become a complex symbol that at times are blamed, other times pitied and sometimes even celebrated for structuring their lives around jobs that are unstable, but also less demanding and potentially freeing. Ideally, working as a freeter is a temporary period to be replaced by full-time employment. However, many freeters are finding this “temporary” state difficult to move beyond. Within the last decade, some freeters have begun to protest against jobs that many see as exploitative and as demanding as full-time positions without the added benefits and security. This dissertation approaches some of these sites of freeter protest ethnographically. Drawing upon twenty months of participant observation research with four union movements attempting to organize freeters and other young irregularly employed youth, I look at how these groups attempt to politically mobilize freeters. This dissertation explores some of the strategies the union movements use in attempting to cultivate class-consciousness amongst freeters and other young irregular workers that feel disaffected by the limiting circumstances of the employment system and seek to confront and change their working condition. Through the descriptions presented in my ethnographic chapters on these union groups, I argue that the loss of place for young irregular workers is contributing to the re-articulation of class politics and protest in post-industrial Japan. However, I also show that instilling class-consciousness in freeters is itself a complex process full of resistances, negotiations, contradictions and even rejections. I situate this study within a variety of critiques surrounding the fields of the anthropology of Japan, the anthropology of labour and the anthropology of social movements. This study seeks to contribute to the critique that although the anthropology of Japan has taken the experiences of difference and diversity seriously, the field has paid less attention to the role of social class. Moreover, studying union movements ethnographically supports the argument that anthropology can provide greater appreciation of the cultural dimensions and lived experiences of activists involved in organized labour and social movements.

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Postcolonial Aspiration and Contestation: Politics and Poetics of Nationalist Discourses in Two National Museums of South Korea (2012)

After colonial liberation from Japan in 1945, Koreans have been eager to establish their sovereignty and to elevate national pride through nationalism. In South Korea, the nationalist discourse is ubiquitous, and generated top-down directly from the government as well as bottom-up in both traditional media and new social media. Emphasizing the unity, longevity, and distinctiveness of the Korean people by promoting nationalism based on the idea of ethnic homogeneity was a way of both redressing a traumatic colonial past and integrating modern social theories. While the nationalist discourse in South Korea constantly reinforces the uniqueness of Korean people and the worthiness of its splendid culture asserted to be of “five thousand years,” South Korean nationalism is far from being self-sufficient. One of the most significant motivational forces for nationalist consciousness in South Korea is not self-determination but its postcoloniality. South Korea’s anticolonial self definition is a direct reaction to Japanese colonialism (1910-1945), and the aggressive pervasiveness of nationalism in contemporary South Korean society is the prescribed way of rejecting and erasing a past both undesirable and regrettable. This prescribed ethnic nationalism is extremely problematic in both its ahistoricity and increasingly conspicuous irrelevancy in the face of an increasingly multiculturalizing contemporary South Korean population.By examining the interplay between postcoloniality and nationalism, this dissertation examines the two major national museums of South Korea, the National Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea. Conceptualizing museums as complex sites where different social, political, and cultural agendas are projected and contested, this dissertation attempts to contextualize the discourses and phenomena of nationalism and postcoloniality in contemporary South Korea within the “contact zone” of museums. While the use of “contact zone” in understanding the nature of museums is strongly informed by James Clifford’s (1997) adoption of Mary Louise Pratt’s term (Pratt 1992), this dissertation aims to broaden the scope of the concept by not limiting the discussion to the dialogue between the exhibited and the exhibitor, but by extending it to mean the process by which museums, the audience, and the society interact to generate and reinforce anticolonial nationalism in South Korea.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Transnational consumption of Japanese popular culture: the case of anime and cosplay subculture (2022)

In the twenty-first century, emerging digital and network communications have facilitated the widespread circulation and expansion of Japanese anime (animation) and manga (comics) cultures to all parts of the world. Today, anime and manga fans across the world interact and engage with each other through social media and other forms of mass media, creating global fan communities. Japanese anime first came to the attention of Egyptian children, teens, and young adults in the 1990s, when Arabic-dubbed versions of the animated television programs Mazinger-Z and Grindizer aired on the national television network. They immediately had a significant influence on Egyptians, rapidly gaining popularity throughout the Arab world and the Middle East. With the technological turn of the new millennium and the increased accessibility of the internet and social media in the second decade of the 21st century, Egyptians learned about the broad subculture surrounding anime and manga and have had a growing appetite for it ever since. Amid this rise in the popularity of anime subculture in Egypt, anime and cosplay conventions, particularly EGYcon, have been increasingly popular. Egyptian anime fans use such spaces to engage in play, generate social relationships and express their interest in anime and cosplay away from the patriarchal social gaze that can be critical to the fandom activities. For example, they can engage in cross-gender play considered transgressive to gender expectations. My research primarily explores the rise in the popularity of anime culture in Egypt and its connections to Japan starting from 2010 until the year 2020. I examine Egyptians’ use of Japanese anime and cosplay as transnational products to negotiate individual identities, and resist Egyptian societal ideologies restricting freedom of self-expression, particularly regarding gender and religion. My fieldwork included participant observation at the 6th annual EGYcon convention in Cairo, Egypt on February 8th, 2019, at Tokyo Comic Con in Tokyo, Japan in November 22-24, 2019, and at Akihabara anime shopping district in Tokyo, Japan in November 25-26, 2019.

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Seoul's gay districts: space, place, and identity (2021)

For men navigating sexual identity that lies on the periphery of culturally understood and politically acceptable discourse, places where they can express such identities are critical for creating a sense of belonging to a wider community. Gay districts have existed as bastions of open self-expression, providing a sense of belonging in restrictive societal contexts. This is particularly true in South Korea. Through direct ethnographic engagement, this thesis analyzes how gay men use Seoul’s gay districts to reinforce identity and create a sense of belonging. In this thesis I argue that while accessing Seoul’s gay districts, individuals are able to interact with like others to reinforce a sense of self as gay. In this study I also show how it is simultaneously important for gay men to conform to normative patterns of social interaction via culturally based expectations of behavior for men in the South Korean context. Chongno, one of Seoul’s gay districts, is uniquely configured to accomplish both processes. Through accessing this space, gay men formulate relationships that affirm gay men’s understanding of self and allow for the transformation of these spaces into places fixed in physical reality. Furthermore, these normative patterns of social interactions with other gay men help individuals reaffirm the self as being both gay and Korean while creating a network of relationships. Such social relationships then allow for the embodiment of this identity outside of such places when participating in and with these networks of people.

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Selling English in South Korea: the marketing of English and uses of foreigners in the English as a foreign language industry (2017)

This thesis examines the private English as a Foreign Language (EFL) industry in the Republic of Korea, herein called South Korea, focusing on the messages that are conveyed about the English language through hagwon advertisements and the roles and positioning of foreign (non-Korean) teachers within hagwons. I analyse the messages contained within various forms of marketing to discuss the discourses that surround the English language, foreign so-called native English speaker teachers (NESTs), and the ability of Koreans to learn the English language well, or not. This thesis discusses issues associated with the native/non-native speaker dichotomy, the native speaker fallacy, and the global spread of the English language as it pertains to the South Korean market that is incredibly education-focused and test-based, where parents and students are always seeking opportunities for social mobility. In particular, I examine how stereotypes associated with native English-speaking teachers (NESTs) and non-native English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) shape the discourses and advertising choices of hagwons. I argue that specific choices are made in advertising depending on the target age of students, and that these choices will include foreign teachers only when those involved in creating such advertisements wish to reference the positive discourses attached to them. There is also a strong association in South Korea that persists between race and language learning ability, which has long been disproven by anthropologists but is nonetheless seemingly perpetuated by marketing that continues to reference it. Finally, I explore possibilities for the future in an industry that has seen significant changes in the preceding decades, taking into account declining birth rates and increasing the English language knowledge of South Koreans.

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Geeks and Creeps in No-Name Land: Triangulating Anonymity, 2channel and Densha Otoko (2010)

This thesis examines anonymity online by analyzing the Japanese story “Densha Otoko” in the context of its locus of origin, the online forum 2channel. I argue that the collaborative value of the Densha Otoko narrative hinges on the technological infrastructure provided by its host forum. This infrastructure not only arises from specific technology developments, but also in turn emphasizes freedom of expression over identification. Focusing on the values linked to, and socialities engendered by anonymity in computer-mediated communication, I argue that: First, anonymity is popularly viewed as creating negative results for society at large, as expressed in public opinion of 2ch in general. However, anonymity can also be portrayed as having positive results for individuals, for example in the Densha Otoko narrative specifically. Secondly, anonymity on 2channel – in conjunction with other infrastructural aspects – facilitates ‘individual’ expression and creates a locus for freedom of speech via the elimination of personal identification. Finally, anonymity, in this case study, engenders sociality by drawing on notions of security and privacy.

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