Invisibility by Design

Women and Labor in Japan's Digital Economy

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 23 illustrations Published: January 2020

Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In the wake of labor market deregulation during the 2000s, online content sharing and social networking platforms were promoted in Japan as new sites of work that were accessible to anyone. Enticed by the chance to build personally fulfilling careers, many young women entered Japan's digital economy by performing unpaid labor as photographers, net idols, bloggers, online traders, and cell phone novelists. While some women leveraged digital technology to create successful careers, most did not. In Invisibility by Design Gabriella Lukács traces how these women's unpaid labor became the engine of Japan's digital economy. Drawing on interviews with young women who strove to sculpt careers in the digital economy, Lukács shows how platform owners tapped unpaid labor to create innovative profit-generating practices without employing workers, thereby rendering women's labor invisible. By drawing out the ways in which labor precarity generates a demand for feminized affective labor, Lukács underscores the fallacy of the digital economy as a more democratic, egalitarian, and inclusive mode of production.


“Addressing crucial issues for our time, Gabriella Lukács brings an ethnographic perspective to young Japanese women who aspire to lucrative careers in day trading and beyond. Through a writing style filled with warmth and empathy, she portrays how these women often face disappointment in their entrepreneurial endeavors, and analyzes how these women's desires for better careers can sometimes be self-defeating. A deeply insightful and thought-provoking book.” — Ian Condry, author of The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story

“Stunningly powerful, Invisibility by Design tracks the movement of young Japanese women into the digital economy where, ‘seduced’ into imagining its possibilities for meaningful work, most found instead that they labored too hard for little pay-off or gendered advancement. Indicting the capitalism that drove digital economy's rapid expansion in 2000s Japan by exploiting and invisibilizing women's affective labor, Gabriella Lukács has given us a book that is at once theoretically profound and ethnographically dense, dancing through the stories of women bloggers, net idols, 'girly' photographers, amateur traders, and cell phone novelists. A rich tour de force!” — Anne Allison, author of Precarious Japan


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gabriella Lukács is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Scripted Affects, Branded Selves: Television, Subjectivity, and Capitalism in 1990s Japan, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Labor and Gender in Japan's Digital Economy  1
1. Disidentifications: Women, Photography, and Everyday Patriarchy  30
2. The Labor of Cute: Net Idols in the Digital Economy  57
3. Career Porn: Blogging and the Good Life  81
4. Working without Sweating: Amateur Traders and the Financialization of Daily Life  106
5. Dreamwork: Cell Phone Novelists, Affective Labor, and Precarity Politics  132
Epilogue. Digital Labor, Labor Precarity, and Basic Income 155
Notes  167
References  207
Index  225
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0648-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0581-0