In Projects

Shelley Brunt

Funded by the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Studies Fellowship, 2013-

This project examines the role of the televised Red and White Song Contest in Japan in the aftermath of the ‘3/11’ triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.  Watching the Red and White Song Contest on New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to collectively reflect on the year gone by, to remember Japan’s singers and the messages of their songs. This study aims to test the premise that post-3/11 editions of the Red and White Song Contest build national identity by presenting the nation to itself. It will compare and contrast discourses of the nation, evidenced in production elements such as staging, song selection, lyric content and instrumentation, as well as evocations of the past, reflections on the nation’s history and through cultural nationalism whereby ‘the distinctiveness of the cultural community’ can be seen as ‘the essence of a nation’ and is used to ‘regenerate the national community by creating, preserving or strengthening a people’s cultural identity’ at a time of year when Japan is already self-reflective. Music can be used to convey grief, celebrate survival, and generate financial aid for disaster-affected areas. It can also be used by societies to develop resilience and manage threats and conditions of uncertainty because ‘shared and coordinated action can reduce collective vulnerability’. In the context of post-3/11 Japan, the Red and White Song Contest can be used as a means for a society to accommodate and recover from hazardous conditions, especially during the ‘recover and reconstruction’ phase, by presenting the stories and songs from devastated regions.

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An interview with Shelley by Colorado Public Radio about the Red and White Song Contest in relation to the Japanese diaspora.

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