The paper discusses the on-going process of the contemporary Poles’ cultural identity formation by examining their experience of the otherness of Japanese cultural products.
At the twilight of the “pattern of Romantic-symbolic culture” that has affected Polish minds for over 200 years, Japanese culture seems to have become a curious ingredient for their act of self-location. When globalization reached the “heart of culture” of Poland in the 1990s, Poles not only began to consume Japanese vehicles and electronics but also experience such culturally peculiar products as sushi and anime, as well as the values and ideas embedded in art and customs that are officially regarded by political and economic elites in Japan as “Japanese traditions.” Amid the worldwide pressure of homogenization of culture, and thus the need for differentiation of self, a growing number of Poles, whose cultural identities have been evolving around such values as fatherland, national liberty, and national solidarity, choose Japanese otherness, devoid of negative meanings, to newly attain the definition of their own “place” in the globalized world.
What images about Japan do Polish consumers of sushi, Zen, tea ceremony, and pornography possess? How do they approach the Orientalist discourse about these cultural products? What are the “valid” and “implausible” values and ideas that Japanese culture offers Poles for formulating their cultural identities?
In-class discussions with Polish students of Japanese culture and the analysis of in-depth interviews with Poles consuming Japanese cultural products, both conducted by the author, introductorily suggest that despite the Orientalist coverage of Japan in the mainstream media, upon consuming “global Japaneseness,” Poles select and confront such peculiar values as tolerance for sexual otherness, souls of animals and nature, or the sense of peace and concentration, among others, for renewing their sense of home in the mobile world, while not negating Polish cultural values.