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Bearing the children of humankind : sex and reproduction in Japanese women writers' dystopian fiction Wang, Yue

Abstract

The birthrate decline (shōshika) of Japan is seen as a social crisis that may, without intervention, lead to drastic population decline and eventually the extinction of humans in Japan. While policies that support working parents have been implemented since the 1990s, many still believe that shōshika is caused and exacerbated by women not carrying out their reproductive and caretaking duties. In response, contemporary women writers Kawakami Hiromi (b. 1958) and Murata Sayaka (b. 1979) have created reproductive dystopias where reproductive continuity is held up as a social priority and people are seen as literal spawning machines. This thesis concentrates on the utopian urges and dystopian realities in the fiction of Kawakami and Murata, and in particular women’s roles in these pronatalist systems. In the introduction, I define dystopia as an apocalyptic imagination that is systematically planned and controlled by means of violence and dehumanization, and then examine its utopian impulses. In Chapter One, I focus on Kawakami’s Do Not be Snatched by the Great Bird (Ōkina tori ni sarawarenaiyō, 2016), tracing the evolution of its dystopia through the eyes of female characters and their nonnormative sexual experiences in order to unpack society’s utopian desire for stability and the dystopian reality of dehumanization. In Chapter Two, I read Murata’s Dwindling World (Shōmetsu sekai, 2015) as a dismantlement of existing heteronormativity, the sexual order, and reproductivity. The utopian impulse for total reproductive efficiency leads to the totalitarian city of Eden, which demands that everyone be a child-bearer. In both texts, women who are doubly oppressed by patriarchy and dystopia have non-reproductive sex with taboo partners, thereby disturbing pronatalist ideologies. These narratives underscore and critique existing patriarchal structures, gender inequities, and heteronormativity in contemporary Japan and question the desirability for total reproductive efficiency.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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