HTNM Lecture — Chris Goto-Jones, “Gamic Orientalism”

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————–HTNM VIDEO LIVE 3/17/15————–
thumbnail Chris Goto-Jones continued the Spring 2015 series of the History and Theory of New Media lectures, held by the Berkeley Center for New Media. Chris offered fascinating insights into the construct of the virtual ninja and other aspects of gaming in his talk “Gamic Orientalism.”

Chris Goto-Jones is the inaugural chair professor of Comparative Philosophy & Political Thought at Leiden University, Professorial Research Associate of the University of London, and Senior Research Fellow in Politics at Oxford University. He was previously Professor of Modern Japan Studies and director of the Modern East Asia Research Centre, Leiden. Goto-Jones is co-founder of the Political and Philosophical Arts initiative (www.politicalarts.org) and a ‘VICI’ laureate of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). He is principal researcher of a 5-year (1.5 million euro) project to analyze the contributions of visual, interactive, and performance culture to political philosophy in Japan and East Asia (www.asiascape.org). He has published widely in the fields of political thought and comparative philosophy; in terms of popularizing publications, he is author of ‘A Very Short Introduction to Modern Japan’ (Oxford University Press, 2009), which has been translated into many languages worldwide.

————–HTNM REVISITED————–

Dispatch from Kate Mattingly, Ph.D. candidate in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, and Designated Emphasis in New Media.

Last Thursday, February 26th, Professor Chris Goto-Jones of Leiden University in the Netherlands delivered a lecture as part of the History and Theory of New Media lecture series. His talk, entitled “Gamic Orientalism,” offered questions about how embodiment participates in ideological discourses. Using analysis of the video game Street Fighter, as well as commentary from those who play the game, Goto-Jones posited a pair of claims: “practicing fighting games makes you better at fighting games,” and “embodied transformation that results from mastery of the games brings visible normative and ethical transformation in everyday life.” The lecture sparked a range of responses and debates, with topics such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and racialized speech patterns being brought into the conversation. Goto-Jones’s research into visuality, interactivity, and digital cultures is part of a 5-year project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and entitled: Beyond Utopia: New Politics, the Politics of Knowledge, and the Science Fictional Field of Japan. According to Goto-Jones, “This project aims to explore the ways in which non-conventional spaces (the non-European and the non-textual – in this case Japan and digital/visual culture) can make creative and innovative contributions to political thought more widely.” The project began in 2010 and has received 1.5 million euros of funding.

Check out the slideshow below for photos from the event, and stay tuned for video and audio podcasts!

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Said’s Orientalism has been (and remains) one of the most influential and controversial critiques of Europe’s engagement with Asia. It has provided powerful perspectives in literature, art, and cultural studies. In this lecture, Goto-Jones asks what happens to Orientalism when it is deployed as a means to interrogate interactive, digital media such as video games. Rather than functioning as a representational critique, Goto-Jones argues that ‘Gamic Orientalism’ participates in a new form of the ‘fantasy of becoming.’ Using the cases of Bushido and the martial arts as analogies, Goto-Jones explores the fantasy of enlightenment through the medium of video games, leading to the development of ‘virtual ninja theory’ as a new media manifesto.


Chris Goto-Jones is the inaugural chair professor of Comparative Philosophy & Political Thought at Leiden University, Professorial Research Associate of the University of London, and Senior Research Fellow in Politics at Oxford University. He was previously Professor of Modern Japan Studies and director of the Modern East Asia Research Centre, Leiden. Goto-Jones is co-founder of the Political and Philosophical Arts initiative (www.politicalarts.org) and a ‘VICI’ laureate of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). He is principal researcher of a 5-year (1.5 million euro) project to analyze the contributions of visual, interactive, and performance culture to political philosophy in Japan and East Asia (www.asiascape.org). He has published widely in the fields of political thought and comparative philosophy; in terms of popularizing publications, he is author of ‘A Very Short Introduction to Modern Japan’ (Oxford University Press, 2009), which has been translated into many languages worldwide.

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, this event is free and open to the public.