Gender and Language, Vol 14, No 2 (2020)

Study abroad as a space where akogare (憧れ) circulates: a case study of Japanese college students’ study abroad experiences in the UK

Chika Kitano
Issued Date: 18 Jun 2020


This study explores the complex dynamics of akogare, a Japanese concept describing a strong attraction to something or someone unattainable. Prior research on the dynamics of akogare in English language learning studies has largely been limited to the consideration of Japanese women’s sexual or romantic desire for the West. The classical hypothesis of gendered akogare arising from this research has led to a disproportionate representation of akogare as Japanese women’s active sexualised agency. This study scrutinises narratives derived from semi-structured interviews with seven Japanese students, male and female, who participated in study abroad programmes in the UK. Drawing from theoretical understandings of ‘materiality’ and ‘space’, the analysis observes how multifaceted akogare circulates in a study abroad setting that is influenced by learners’ linguistic and gendered relations to the West. The analysis suggests that the study abroad setting serves as a multidimensional space to (re)construct oneself through the lens of akogare as a discerning English learner who asserts cognitive distance from Western hegemony.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.36089


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