Representation of desire and femininity

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This paper proceeds as a case discourse analysis of a singularly important 1988 advertising campaign, “Hoshii mono ga hoshii wa” (I want what I want) for the Seibu Department Stores, an energetic driving force of Japan’s taste culture. Although the campaign is more than 20 years old, it remains one of the most inspiring advertising campaigns in Japanese history. The case provides an opportunity to study how the concepts of desire and femininity are salient signifiers in late-modern Japan as one kind of representation in paternalistic socio-economic systems. This paper focuses on both the textual sphere of the campaign and the socio-historical/cultural background of the Japanese consumer society in relation to the semiotic and the social. Thus, critical discourse analysis is the chosen methodology. Judith Butler’s (1993) construct of performativity including the concepts of iteration and foreclosure provides the conceptual ground. In my analytical process, I articulate those iterations and foreclosures in the advertisement. For Butler, desire is the desire for recognition and it is connected to the subject’s capacity for self-knowledge. Construing the advertisement as the desire for recognition attempts to show how gender can be perceived as a “doing” and how commercial advertisements can be a site of reflection for women living in a late-modern consumer society.


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