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Nightwork : sexuality, pleasure, and corporate masculinity in a Tokyo hostess club / Anne Allison

Main Author Allison, Anne, 1950- Country Estados Unidos. Publication Chicago : University of Chicago Press, cop. 1994 Description XIII, 213 p. ; 23 cm ISBN 0-226-01487-8 CDU 394(520)
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Monografia Biblioteca Fernão Mendes Pinto
BFMP-LCO 394(520) - A Perdido | Lost Indisponível | Not available 357575
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

In Nightwork , Anne Allison opens a window onto Japanese corporate culture and gender identities. Allison performed the ritualized tasks of a hostess in one of Tokyo's many "hostess clubs": pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes, and making flattering or titillating conversation with the businessmen who came there on company expense accounts. Her book critically examines how such establishments create bonds among white-collar men and forge a masculine identity that suits the needs of their corporations.

Allison describes in detail a typical company outing to such a club--what the men do, how they interact with the hostesses, the role the hostess is expected to play, and the extent to which all of this involves "play" rather than "work." Unlike previous books on Japanese nightlife, Allison's ethnography of one specific hostess club (here referred to as Bijo) views the general phenomenon from the eyes of a woman, hostess, and feminist anthropologist.

Observing that clubs like Bijo further a kind of masculinity dependent on the gestures and labors of women, Allison seeks to uncover connections between such behavior and other social, economic, sexual, and gendered relations. She argues that Japanese corporate nightlife enables and institutionalizes a particular form of ritualized male dominance: in paying for this entertainment, Japanese corporations not only give their male workers a self-image as phallic man, but also develop relationships to work that are unconditional and unbreakable. This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in gender roles or in contemporary Japanese society.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Acknowledgments
  • Prelude
  • Introduction
  • Pt. 1 Ethnography of a Hostess Club
  • Ch. 1 A Type of Place
  • Ch. 2 A Type of Routine
  • Ch. 3 A Type of Woman
  • Pt. 2 Mapping the Nightlife within Cultural Categories Introduction
  • Ch. 4 Social Place and Identity
  • Ch. 5 The Meaning and Place of Work: The Sarariiman
  • Ch. 6 Family and Home
  • Ch. 7 Structure of Japanese Play
  • Ch. 8 Male Play with Money, Women, and Sex
  • Pt. 3 Male Rituals and Masculinity Introduction
  • Ch. 9 Male Bonding
  • Ch. 10 The Mizu Shobai Woman: Constructing Dirtiness and Sex
  • Ch. 11 Impotence as a Sign and Symbol of the Sarariiman
  • References
  • Index

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Japanese companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to hostess clubs that provide certain employees a release from job tensions. Here hostesses perform ritualized tasks--lighting cigarettes, pouring drinks, conversing in a stylized flirtatious manner--and while there is an erotic charge, the sex is implied, not performed. Duke University cultural anthropologist Allison's account of the four months she spent as a hostess at Bijo, a high-class Tokyo hostess club, is the first written description, in English or Japanese, devoted wholly to these after-work hangouts for corporate, white-collar sarariiman (``salaryman,'' an English/Japanese linguistic concoction). Allison has not written a voyeur's account, but a soundly researched study that provides substantial insights into the meanings of work and play for the Japanese. Whatever else they may do, the hostesses' first duty is to emphasize the client's strengths and his status as a desirable male, which, Allison argues, helps create the ideal sarariiman , one committed first and foremost to his job. Allison interviewed not only the hostesses and other Bijo staffers, but also wives of the men who frequent the club, club neophytes, managers of other hostess clubs, Japanese sociologists, journalists and others. Unlike previous books on Japanese nightlife, Allison's ethnography views Japanese night life from the eyes of a woman and feminist anthropologist. If the writing is occasionally dryly academic, Nightwork nonetheless provides valuable, thought-provoking reading for those interested in Japan, contemporary society or in gender roles. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Allison's very readable work is about hostess clubs--Japanese establishments whose service includes sexual talk between businessmen and hostesses. The author (Duke Univ.) compares businesses' justifications of their employees' use of these establishments ("opening up," relaxing, bonding with fellow workers) to the activities that really take place in them. Data came from three sources: observation and participation (the author worked in a Tokyo hostess club for four months); interviews with customers, employees, and researchers of sex, family, and gender issues; and a detailed literature review of Japanese writings. The monograph has three parts. The first, a careful description of what takes place in a hostess club, provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the interpersonal relationships found there. Allison summarizes the club's physical setting and social context and explains how hostesses differ from prostitutes. In the second part, she describes what men do in the club, focusing on such highly formulaic activities as drinking, singing, joking with each other, and speaking to and about the hostesses in a specialized language. Third, Allison examines the role and scope of the women's services and explains how that relates to the goals of businesses and businessmen. Upper-division undergraduate and up. T. A. Foor; University of Montana

Booklist Review

A fascinating look at the Japanese hostess club culture, where businessmen go to "feel like a man." The clubs are lavish or glitzy, depending on their quality and cost, but the focus is always the same for the men: to be entertained, cajoled, and flirted with by a young, attractive woman. Sex? Not necessarily. While flirting is open and expected, and intimate touching is not unknown, the purpose of these clubs is to offer an atmosphere where masculinity is "collectively realized and ritualized." Allison argues that this activity reinforces certain ideas of male dominance which so define the Japanese corporate world. Scholarly but never pedantic, the book is further bolstered by the author's own experience as a hostess. A penetrating look at a slice of Japanese business life. (Reviewed Mar. 15, 1994)0226014851Brian McCombie

Kirkus Book Review

An assistant professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, Allison worked as a hostess in a Tokyo club, where she examined how the rituals of a hostess define gender identities in Japan. Allison combines feminism with Asian studies in her examination of night work. Japanese corporations bond their white- collar workers to the company with after-hours drinking sessions that employees are expected to attend--and their wives to allow. Allison partially criticizes her subjects, who justify these sessions as part of their culture. As she digs into their points of view, she tells us, ``My goal here is to lay out the cultural ideas that support corporate entertainment by framing and legitimizing it as cultural custom.'' As far as possible, she ``lets the voices of Japanese speak for themselves.'' Men often come to these bondings ``straight from work, tired, uptight, and insecure.'' As part of the corporate life, bonding is work, even though it is made to seem like nonwork. The hostess's job is to create a warm, pleasant atmosphere and lively discussion. Even so, she can also ``be insulted, ignored, and walked away from [and] `put in her place' by the men for whom she's lighting cigarettes, pouring drinks, and instigating conversation. She is lectured, her appearance is evaluated and criticized, her body is ogled and pawed....'' Allison describes the Japanese take on the meaning and place of work; the family and home; male play with money, women, and sex; male rituals of masculinity; and the ways in which white-collar workers are impotent. After retirement, deprived of the money for expensive booze and hostesses, the poor male finds himself in a reverse role, ruled by the absolute master of domestic space, his wife. Serious anthropology but also much like a long night out, expenses paid.

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