Preface (Interface)
Akira Mizuta Lippit
The volume that follows is long overdue. Which is not to say that it arrives
late, or even too late, but rather that its timeliness appears in the form of
a long- anticipated, and thus deferred, actualization. It represents a needed
point of contact, or interface, between a media culture and its thought, be-
tween the material and conceptual dimensions of media culture in Japan.
For too long there has been a perception that visual media cultures are prac-
ticed in Japan— film, art, architecture— but understood or thought else-
where. Practiced within but thought from without, this false rift effects an
erasure of those who have thought and continue to think media in Japan from
within. Marc Steinberg and Alexander Zahlten’s anthology Media Theory
in Japan brings these dimensions together for the first time, perhaps—
certainly in English— and into a pres ent that also, at once, takes the form of
a past, hence overdue. A past folded at the same time into a pres ent, arriving
in the dual temporalities of a future anterior, or perfect.
This overdue volume portrays a lively media theory in Japan then and
now by many of the critics and theorists most active in media studies today.
But even with its publication, this volume remains overdue. Past due, past
the time of its anticipated arrival, Nachträglichkeit, and yet at the same time
absolutely timely in its pre sentation of a coherent interface between media
theory and practice in Japan. How is it pos si ble to reconcile postponement
with timeliness, and what sort of temporality is invoked in such a temporal
It is perhaps the temporality of a media theorization par excellence. The
deferred arrival of such a volume, overdue, reveals the prob lem of a national
media and its theorization as chronic, which is to say, “about time.” What
sutures the practices and discourses of media within a cultural sphere bound
by a single language, however porous, and however multilingual that language
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