Prof. Diane Wei Lewis discusses her new article in the Feminist Media Histories podcast on "Labor."
For much of the history of Japanese animation, women workers were in charge of low-paid, labor intensive animation tasks known as shiage (finishing), which comprise the final stages of drawing images. "Shiage and Women's Flexible Labor in the Japanese Animation Industry" examines how this work transformed with changes in animation production methods, employment practices, and technology. Lewis's research highlights how the workers who perform animation labor as home-based piecework ("homework") are especially vulnerable to exploitation. In particular, she analyzes correspondence course ads in women's magazines from the late 1970s and early 1980s that marketed animation work to housewives as an attractive, self-enriching hobby. (As it turns out, many of these opportunities were actually scams.)
Lewis says, "I argue that besides the growing success of Japanese animation, what made such advertisements possible was Japan’s transition from a production-oriented economy to a consumer-oriented economy. Because of this cultural and economic shift, there were instances where even the most repetitive, poorly compensated, labor-intensive forms of work could be reframed by consumer practices and discourses.
"Also, just generally speaking, these correspondence courses ads can tell us a lot about how ideas about women’s employment and home-based labor were changing in this period. I found the material fascinating."