Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Language, Innovation, Culture and Education 2016

Under the Kimono's Textiles: The Construction of Japanese Woman Identity through Performativity of Narrative on Geisha's Body

Naphatrapee Suntorntirnan

Assumption University


Mineko Iwasaki is a real-life retired Japanese Geisha. Her autobiographical memoirs, Geisha, a Life, has been significantly launched after the popularity of Arthur Golden worldwide bestseller novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. Her memoirs narrates about her life as from her childhood to her successful life as a high-rank "female artist" in geisha community until the living after retirement from her geisha-dom. Politically, Iwasaki's memoirs is aiming at reconstructing the representations of Japanese geisha from the voice of 'cultural agency' against the distortions and misconceptions of stereotypical formation discursively on Japanese geisha as sexual objects for male desires in prostitutions. By emphasizing on the narrative on the body, as this paper is attempting to explore, the representations of geisha's body in Geisha' a Life was implemented with the redemption of narrative voices as/of cultural 'authenticity' and as the site or the marker of resistance. As the reaction to Memoirs of a Geisha, her narrative redefined constructively (the author's) geisha body to be the 'essence' of artistic and aesthetics of 'Japanese-ness.' Anthropological accounts on geisha body are brought in to involvement, en details, in connection with Japanese artistic subtlety, Japanese way of living, and Japanese cultural sophistication to refashioning her identity in the narrative not only as a Japanese geisha but also as a Japanese self-made working woman. The geisha's body is represented integrally as the body of a professional performing artist, the body of preservation of living Japanese culture, the physical materials of achieving artistic talents.


narrative, self, cultural identity, body, geisha, japanese culture, japanese woman

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