In this presentation, I will take up a Japanese gag expression,“nanchatte.” Its English equivalent in terms of its effect would be the expression, “Just kidding.” Its successful execution would “crack up” people, take the edge off from an impression of formality, arrogance, aggression, austerity, or bluntness, break the ice, mitigate face-threat or potential embarrassment, keep its meaning ambiguous, and produce other similar performative effects. The term first appeared in the 1970s, during boom times for economic growth in Japan, eventually waned from the popular lexicon, and then reappeared in the 1990s during Japan’s economic troubles. In this presentation, I will discuss how nanchatte, as pragmatic and as frivolous as it may seem, affords a profound space of theory about the production of the other within the self.
Professor Miyako Inoue teaches linguistic anthropology and the anthropology of Japan at Stanford University. Her first book, titled, Vicarious Language: the Political Economy of Gender and Speech in Japan (University of California Press), examines a phenomenon commonly called "women's language" in Japanese modern society, and offers a genealogy showing its critical linkage with Japan's national and capitalist modernity. Professor Inoue is currently working on a book-length project on a social history of “verbatim” in Japanese. She traces the historical development of the Japanese shorthand technique used in the Diet for its proceedings since the late 19th century, and of the stenographic typewriter introduced to the Japanese court for the trial record after WWII. She is interested in learning what it means to be faithful to others by copying their speech, and how the politico-semiotic rationality of such stenographic modes of fidelity can be understood as a technology of a particular form of governance, namely, liberal governance. Publication that has come out of her current project includes, "Stenography and Ventriloquism in Late Nineteenth Century Japan." Language & Communication 31.3 (2011).