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(Be)longing practices in the social world of literature. A case study of Japanese writers
A portray of a writer could present an individual, who spends long hours with their MacBook, puckering their forehead over a piece of prose. It is plausible that this image propels a large number of literary adepts in Japan to submit their novels for literary prize competitions in the hope of achieving the “privileged” status of a writer. While new candidates longing for the “writer’s life” emerge continuously, those who are deemed members of the literary pantheon, struggle to belong to this world. For professional trajectories in the publishing sector are usually cobbled together with short-term projects on a freelance contract basis (Faulkner 1983). People engaged in literary writing rarely live off their art. They often carry out jobs scarcely related to literature, if at all (Heinich 2000). Consequently, the distinction of the professional standing becomes blurred at the individual level and writers find it difficult to auto-affiliate themselves with this particular vocational group. Based on the qualitative and ethnographic study conducted among Japanese writers this paper addresses such issues as: How, by whom and in whose interest is the image of a professional writer socially constructed? How does it differ from the writers’ daily life? How do writers develop their careers in the context of the Japanese literary market? How do these writers build their status and gain a reputation in the “regime de singularité” (Heinich 2000) that requires originality and uniqueness? Finally, how do they operate their singularity in Japanese society, which officially praises collectivity?