Thesis Abstracts

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Natthavimol (‘Sai’) Wangsittikul

‘What is Manga? Reading Representation and Culture’

By Dr Natthavimol (‘Sai’) Wangsittikul

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Natthavimol (‘Sai’) Wangsittikul

CIRCL PhD student Natthavimol (‘Sai’) Wangsittikul passed her viva on 05-10-2023 with her PhD thesis on ‘What is Manga? Reading Representation and Culture’. Supervisor: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein; External Examiner: Professor Ian Parker of Leicester University; Internal Examiner: Dr Neil Cocks.

Abstract of thesis

This is an interdisciplinary thesis that explores the questions and claims surrounding manga. It will engage in several issues by asking how and why the arguments are constructed the way they are, using psychoanalysis and the approach from, for example, Jacques Derrida (1995), Jacqueline Rose (1998), and Saito Tamaki (2011). I begin the first section by investigating the ‘term’ of manga and its usage which could be known differently depending on the positions and the translation. This idea leads to the process of the translation and how the idea of originality is constructed through the framing of history and time — James Clifford’s (1988) idea of ‘culture collecting’. That is, history would have to rely on the retrospective perspective to identify and recognize the frame as history, which is required to understand manga. Chapter 2 discusses the constitution of manga’s readers, known as ‘otaku’, in relation to ‘culture collecting’ and the construction of self. I read that the investment of the otaku involves culture and the relationship with the objects of interest. But they are not just objects, for they have other meanings and could represent something else. The next chapter further investigates the idea of framing a culture, and how it requires the perspective of sameness and difference to form a cultural code. In Chapter 4, I will continue to explore women’s representations and images, especially how cuteness is being thought of in manga in relation to the notion of culture, for there is an idea that images of women could reflect their position in Japanese society. Nevertheless, all the imagery and representation would have to hinge on the idea of seeing and a gaze on the body, which I am going to do a close reading in Chapter 5, using Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (1978) as a base of my argument. In the last chapter, I am going to read the images in manga and the relationship between different spaces — fantasy and reality — to further investigate the effect of the ‘images’, as claimed, on readers. Hence, my thesis will discuss how the system of culture is constructed by retrospective perspective of repetitions and oppositions, and how, in every chapter, it always returns to the same process the way it does.