Preface and Acknowledgments
Grabbing the Cat by Its Tail, or
How the Cat Grabbed Me
My interest in Hello Kitty as a research topic began in 1998, when I
introduced the subject as part of a course I began teaching in the De-
partment of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i on Japanese
popular culture. I had grown up in Hawai’i, and Hello Kitty was part of
everyday commercial fare from Japan. After giving my first lecture on
the subject, I jokingly mentioned to Elaine, the department secretary
who had also grown up in Hawai’i in the 1950s and 1960s, what I had
discussed in class. To my surprise, she showed me her computer where
she had bookmarked Sanrio’s website. Although Elaine may not have
literally grown up with Hello Kitty, she was my first Hello Kitty fan!
Poring over the website, I was agog at the richness and complexity of
the Sanrio world a pink realm of fictitious characters, relationships,
and of course goods, but also a world in which a consumer might live
in interaction with a corporation and its products. I began to pay closer
attention. Elaine had in fact provided me with my first textual (website)
and ethnographic (fandom) components that have proven to be the ba-
sic blocks of what has become Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek across
the Pacific. This was the start of a long, rich journey that began in the
classroom, delved into research, and traversed different terrains many
times over. During well over a decade of thinking, talking, and writing
about Hello Kitty, I have taken a bit of ownership of the cat and its
many, many lives inasmuch as I fear that the cat has taken ownership
of me. Like many anthropologists, I have inhabited the village of this
subject matter over the longue durée, observing changing circumstances
and whimsies of popularity, folding these into interpretive analyses.
In fact, this research had to compete with several other projects, from
Japanese American beauty queens, delicatessens, and flight attendants,
Previous Page Next Page