NIGHTWORK by Anne Allison


Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club
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 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.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-226-01485-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1994