Silent Bodies: Japanese taciturnity and image thinking

  • Ana Došen Faculty of Media and Communications Singidunum University, Belgrade
Keywords:
silence, Japan, ishin – denshi, haragei, enryo–sasshi, cinema, theatre, muga, ma, honne-tatemae

Abstract

A nonverbal transmission and an implicit way of communication are highly encouraged in Japanese society. The reason for this “silence prerogative” is often found in historical facts of lengthy feudal era or in ancient philosophies and religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism and their various concepts which privilege taciturn way of communication. Moreover, the unspoken comprehension is often complemented by the attitude which equates truthfulness with silence. This paper explores the silence as a communicative act in the domain of Japanese art, where the body takes over the place of the language. In traditional Japanese theatrical performance, such as noh, words are often inadequate to convey emotion and therefore the aesthetics of emptiness, understatement and abstraction is transcended by the masks with "nonmoving lips". Drawing on theoretical perspectives from both East and West, I argue that the silent bodies operate as deliberate and integral determinants of Japanese non-silent art forms – especially in cinema and theatre. In the Eastern thought, visual perception is fundamental in cognition of the world, whereas auditory discernment is secondary to "image-thinking" (Yuasa). Accustomed to taciturnity, Japanese audience effectively corresponds to the performance and "completes" it in silence.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Adachi, Reito. 2016. Dubbing of silences in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away: A comparison of Japanese and English language versions. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 24 (1): 142-156.

Baird, Bruce. 2012. Hijikata Tatsumi and Butoh – Dancing in a Pool of Gray Grits. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Befu, Harumi. 2001. Hegemony of Homogeneity. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.

Cage, John. 1973. "45' for a Speaker". In Silence: Lectures and Writings by John Cage. Hanover: Wesleyan.

Cavallero, Dani. 2013. Japanese Aesthetics and Anime, Jefferson. NC & London: McFarland & Company.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1997. Cinema 1- The Movement-Image. University of Minnesota Press.

De Mente, Boye Lafayette. MUGA: A Japanese Word You Should Know. http://boyelafayettedemente.blogspot.rs/2007/03/muga-moo-gah-japanese-word-you-should.html

Dosen, Ana. 2016. Bemusing the Audience: Probing the Narrative Diversions in Symbol. Ekphrasis 15 (1) : 75-85.

Došen, Ana. Viscerocepcija: (japansko) telo koje misli i umetnost. Art+Media 11 (to be published).

Hall, Edward T. 1976. Beyond Culture. New York: Anchor Books.

Hamera, Judith. 1990. Silence That Reflects: Buthoh, Ma, and a Crosscultural Gaze. Text and Performance Quarterly 10 (1): 53-60.

Isozaki, Arata and Ken Tadashi Oshima. 2009. Arata Isozaki. London: Phaidon Press.

Kindaichi, Haruhiko. 2010. The Japanese Language. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

Jackson II, Ronald L. And Michael A. Hogg (eds.). 2010. Encyclopedia of Identity. Vol.I, SAGE Publications.

Lambert, Leopold (ed.). 2013. The Funambulist Pamphlets: Spinoza. New York: Punctum Books.

Lebra, Takie S. 1987. The cultural significance of silence in Japanese communication. Multilingua 6-4: 345-357.

Marks, Laura U. 2000. The Skin of the Film. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Matarazzo J. D, H.F. Hess, G. Saslow. 1961. Frequency and duration characteristics of speech and silence behavior during interviews. Journal of Clinical Psychology 18 (4): 416-426.

Matsuki, Keiko. 1995. "Metaphors of anger in Japanese". In Language and the Cognitive Construal of the World, eds. John R. Taylor and Robert E. MacLaury, 137-152. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Maynard, Michael L. and Senko K. Maynard. 1994. 101 Japanese idioms: Understanding Japanese Language and Culture Through Popular Phrases. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books.

Maynard, Seneko K. 1997. Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

McDonald, Keiko I. 1994. Japanese Classical Theater in Films. London & Toronto: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2012. Phenomenology of Perception. London & NewYork: Routledge.

Miike, Yoshitaka. 2003. Japanese Enryo-Sasshi Communication and Psychology of Amae: Reconsideration and Reconceptualization. Keio Communication Review 25: 93-115.

Nishida, Kitaro. 1992. An Inquiry Into the Good. Yale Univesity Press.

Okabe, Ryoichi. 1983. "Cultural assumptions East and West: Japan and the United States". Intercultural communication theory: Current perspectives, ed. W. Gudykunst, 22-41. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Prasol, Alexander. 2010. Modern Japan: Origins of the Mind. Hackensack, NJ & London: World Scientific Publishing Co.

Richie, Donald. 1971. Japanese Cinema – Film Style and National Character. New York: Anchor Books.

———. 2005. Hundred Years Japanese Cinema. Tokyo: Kodansha.

———. 2007. A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics. Stone Bridge Press.

Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro (trans.). 2009. Lankavatara Sutra: A Mahayana Text. Motilal Banarsidass.

Takemitsu, Toru. 1995. Confronting Silence – Selected Writings, Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Tanen, Deborah and Muriel Saville-Troike (eds.). 1985. Perspectives on Silence. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Tsujimura, Akira. 1987. "Some Characteristics of the Japanese Way of Communication." Communication Theory - Eastern and Western Perspectives. ed. D. Lawrence Kincaid, 115-126. San Diego: Academic Press, INC.

Yuasa, Yasuo. 2008. Overcoming Modernity – Synchonicity and Image-Thinking. New York: State University of New York Press.
Woronoff, Jon. 1990. Japan As Anything But Number One. Amornk, NY: M.E.Sharpe.
Published
2017-03-31
How to Cite
Došen, Ana. 2017. “Silent Bodies: Japanese Taciturnity and Image Thinking”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (1), 113–128. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v12i1.5.