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Constructing Linear Myths and Constructing Peace

When my sister told me that I have infinite number of birds in my brain and the problem is that each fly in different directions, I told her not to worry about my harmonious internal chaos. 

I firmly believe that these birds wander through different paths waiting for a happy collision. It is difficult for me to identify the trigger of such fortunate event. However, whenever this happens, I feel passionate and energetic to engage in action. I am a PhD student at ICU and was requested to submit the diploma of completion of the e-Learning Course on Research Ethics of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1). I find this course interesting because of its content. However, it resulted in sleepless nights for days pondering around the concept of what “ghost authorship” is and why this is not acceptable for researchers.


My current research focuses on the sustainability of Japanese folk traditional textile dyeing, and more specifically, the world around katazome, or stencil dyeing. Katazome relates to the Mingei movement – Folk Art Movement in Japan in 1920s.

Image on left:
Katazome by Chizuko Dote; picture by Solomon Kazuya 

The Mingei movement included several traditional arts such as pottery, wood carving, textile weaving, or textile dyeing. In the area of textile dyeing, Serizawa Keisuke is the most representative figure within the Mingei movement. He became a Japan National Living Treasure in 1956 and had a most productive, artistic, and creative life until his death in 1984. Anchoring my research work in Serizawa, I feel the dichotomy in Mingei as folk anonymous communal art, versus its representatives: the quintessence of solo creation. Thus, my interest in the relation of sustainability to:

a) the transmission of knowledge and knowhow of a unique tradition to future generations (the essential task of a National Living Treasure);

b) the value attached to the artistic creation of a genius during a life time (through the objects he created);

c) the construction of a linear and absolute myth representing the spirit of Japanessness (in the Mingei Movement).  

I, myself am a practitioner of katazome for many years. The sensei who lead the koubou to where I belong has been working for many decades as a craftsman in the koubou of a famous master. Against remuneration of salary, this person contributed to the production of items associated with the famous master. So far, so good. Except when reading the concept of "ghost authorship" for my course on research ethics, the bird in my brain that had made me feel uneasy about the linear construction of a myth, collided with the bird in my brain perceiving the negation of identity of some of these craftspeople working for famous masters.

This Eureka feeling prompted me to align at least two birds in my mind. If the work of these craftspeople does not receive proper public recognition in the production of these overall acclaimed masters, the society is denying an aspect of their existence. This is especially so in the case of skilled Japanese traditional craftsmen, focusing on the perfection of a single aspect of the production process and devotion to the master they serve through a sense of belonging and respect. I am not arguing for the rights that I consider belong to the master, such as the rights of attribution, integrity and disclosure (Leimer 1998). At the same time, I consider that there is a structural violence in the system that builds linear myths and markets them, unintentionally or on purpose, to the detriment of many shadowed persons. This results in my opinion, to a structural and indirect kind of social injustice (Galtung 1969) that limits the sense of peace in society. 

As far as I know, many authors have written about ghost authorship in literature for the last several decades (Galtung 1969), with few more recent thinking in areas nearer to my interests (Liemer 1998, Gui 2009, Johansson & Berge 2014). Consulting this material helped me identify the missing framework that gave my birds more sense of direction and meaning. 

The trigger to think more systematically on how important it is to address any form of structural violence and also in the process of artistic creation; and how this approach can contribute to peace in society has been the calling for writing from Ad Pacem in ICU. Thank you for this poster in the Honkan!

Works Cited:

Cui, G. (2009). The Myth of Collective Authorship in Folklore Works. Tsinghua University School of Law. SSRN. accessed 09 February 2019 

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of peace research, 6(3), 167-191. accessed 12 February 2019 

Johansson, M., & Berge, O. K. (2014). Who owns an interpretation? Legal and symbolic ownership of Norwegian folk music. Ethnomusicology, 58(1), 30-53. accessed 12 February 2019 

Liemer, S. P. (1998). Understainding Artists' Moral Rights: Primer. BU Pub. Int. LJ, 7, 41. accessed 12 February 2019

(1) Ghost authorship: Research Ethics e-Learning Course Manual (ver 1.1) accessed 10 February 2019. 

Date Published

April 11, 2019 
9:30 am Thursday, Tokyo (GMT+9)


Folk Art, Katazome, Structural Violence, Mingei Movement, Japan, Ghost Authorship

About the author
Maria Santa Maria

Borin in Madrid, Maria is a medical doctor with a PhD in environmental epidemiology, who has worked for nearly 30 years at the World Health Organisation mainly in epidemic responses. A traditional textile dyer of "katazome" for several decades as well, her works were accepted at the Japanese Traditional Crafts Exhibition in dyeing for three consecutive years from 1988 - 1990 . At present she is a PhD student at ICU focusing on the sustainability of traditional folk textile dyeing. Her hobbies inlcude learning new traditions, dyeing and trekking. In the future she would like to broaden her knowledge in Japanese traditional textile techniques and the traditional fashion scene in the country with an approach to current social and economic adaptability.


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