J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Big headed Bug-Eyed Figures and the S'Entendre Parler

Big headed Bug-Eyed Figures and the S'Entendre Parler by timtak
Big headed Bug-Eyed Figures and the S'Entendre Parler, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The standard interpretation of these big-headed figures which appear in manga, anime, and toys such as this, is that they are made to look cute (and the Japanese are well into cute) by mimicking the proportions of infants who have a larger head to body size than adult humans.

I also get the feeling that this big head, or rather big face and big eyes, with no mouth, form is rather like the structure of "s'entendre parler."

Skip this next bit if you know what "S'entendre Parler" refers to.

"S'entendre Parler" is French for the experience of hearing and understanding oneself speak which Derrida argues, and I agree, is the "auto-erotic," cogito experience which gives rise to the belief in the Western self. Put another way, "Hearing oneself speak" is the cogito, that bastion of all things logical and white, derided, queered, made pathological. In the silent fish bowl of my mind I can presume to be communicating with myself, that I can thus say myself, frame myself, that I take a point of reference upon myself, that I can speak myself to myself and by this self-distance-requiring, mental Ina Bauer, I can exist. As Derrida points out however, there never was any distance, I can never say anything to myselsf. I can try. "I am hot?" "I am writing?" I say, but did any communication take place? For communication to have taken place I would have had to have transferred something. But what can I say that I don't already know before I have said it? The best I can hope for is a memo, or shopping list. I can write myself memos. But this self speech that I keep on doing is a strange sort of obsession indeed bearing in mind self proximity, the presumed "presence," unity of the enunciator and the enunciated. But by this constant stream of memorandums, this "differance," putting myself off for later, I succeed in something. Talking to oneself in the first person does have real effects. It does create in me the illusion of identity which, since it has real effects, might even be argued to be real.

End of Aside.

And back to this figure, above. Is it like the Western self-narrative?
It reminds me of the "sounded existence" existence that logocentrists like to think they are: completely absent in some ways, and completely present in others. As Derrida points out, logocentrism bound up with phonocentrism because the phoneme always disappears. If were were to write ourselves postcards (Derrida, 1987) then the sicko-silliness of the project would be become apparent. But because we speak to ourselves in phonemes, which disappear, almost without a trace, as soon as they are sounded, we can believe in presence, that we are experiencing thought and meaning itself, un-mediated.

As I am always saying, the Japanese are permanently in the Mirror Stage except for them it is the destination. In order for the same kind of auto-erotic self presence that can be achieved with the self-saying phoneme the Japanese must imagine themeseles to be, rather like this figure: completely unsaid and un-sayable (hence the absence of mouth, the plethora of mime) but only seeing and seen, hence the massive face and massive eyes. So I think this figure may be the cogito, the "S'entendre Parler," my self, reflected in a modality morphin' mirror.

Derrida, J. (1987). The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. (A. Bass, Trans.) (First ed.). University Of Chicago Press.

This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.