Kyara-play and the fluid self

Kamada, Mari. 2021. Kyara-play and the fluid self. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines how identity-formation in the context of contemporary Japan can be understood in terms of “kyara-play,” a pervasive and performative practice in which the subject circumstantially defines and enacts multiple-selves mediated by history, language, and technology. Challenging existent nihonjinron readings of Japanese identity, we open an understanding of kyara-play drawing on James Gibson’s concept of ecological psychology (Gibson, 1950/1966/1986). The concept will be further developed in terms of post-Gibsonian thinking (Fuller, 2005; Hodges, 2009; Norman, 2013), to discuss the media-cultural configuration of the subject, with a specific focus on the performative nature of the concept of Gibson’s theory of “affordance.” This focus allows the thesis to examine the generality and specificity of cultural identities, and will argue for the pragmatic interdependence between subject and environment. This thesis will also draw on the concepts of “assemblage” and “meme” to underpin its analysis of the fluid self as a vehicle for kyara-play, and focus on the prevalence of “seken,” understood as a normative governing power which opens up the production of the ambiguous self through kyara-play. Continuing an ecological psychologist perspective, we trace how Japanese language functions relationally as an equivocal determinant, which has an equally pervasive influence on the ways the subject thinks, perceives and references circumstantially-defined multiple-selves in relation to the mediated environment. Drawing on Gibson further, I will use his theories of perception to discuss how manga and the subject inter-relate, inspiring multi-form, media-mix transformations, traceable through the case studies of artists Murakami Takashi and Aida Makoto. Through their performative engagement with multiple kyara-play in multiple-dimensional spaces, we can analyse the ecological view of perception as central to an understanding of cultural formations, and appreciate how the subject perceives “the self” as a reflection of one’s surrounding environment: the ecology of self, fluidly enacted through kyara-play.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


kyara-play, affordance, mitate, Japanese, language, fluid self

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 January 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

21 Jun 2021 09:55

Last Modified:

31 Jan 2024 02:26


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