I will be attending SCMS 2014 in Seattle presenting a paper on eco-assumptions in criticism relating to the films of Miyazaki Hayao. The paper is one I wrote quite a while ago, updated slightly to tackle ecocinema criticism rather than just criticism relating to Miyazaki in general. The very basic premise is that representations consumed as invoking Shinto by western critics should not be said to do so without further analysis into the complexity and syncretism that underlies this ancient system of practices (if not beliefs) in Japan. Furthermore, the assumption that Shinto in someway implies a connection to natural systems, a heightened ability to be of the planet, echoes with an orientalist sentiment that should have died out some time ago. Of course, the scholarship I am using to make my case is, in the most-part, commonly available anthropological studies of Japan and its complex religious-cultural background, so what I have to say on the subject is hardly groundbreaking. Then again, there’s a certain scientific certainty to be gained from the numerous accounts supporting my argument, and a deeper embarrassment that cinema studies scholars of the highest calibre still make those understandable but ultimately unfounded jumps. It’s been somewhat of a pet project of mine for some time, as a consumer of anime and Japanese videogames that tap into their nation’s religious historical narrative. Far from Shinto as a connection to the planet, I intend to illustrate Shinto as connected to the form of representation via the idea of ‘Kami’ but, more of that in Seattle.

Conor Mckeown
University of Glasgow