Of Rituals and Being

August 17, 2011

Okiya, the boarding house for Geishas in Japan embodies strong affects from residential individuals with its arduous training to seek perfection while relinquishing oneself to be the corporal vessel of arts. This humble typology of house possesses a lineage of culture, rituals and holds as a crucial in national identity. Its heterotopical qualities in its inclusion and exclusion within the social norm and ritualistic entry and practices within the house hold fascinate many. Through strong affect within the spaces, the Okiya transform into much more than a mere shelter. The secrecy in their practices and living rituals give rise to okiya being set up in close proximities which in turn gave rise to ‘hanamachi’ (flower town).

For its inhabitants, okiya is a form of institution, a place of learning, becoming of being, a place of devotion. The entry of a young individual is a ritual of leaving behind your personal being and devoting your body into the perfect embodiment of arts and entertainment. Its entertainment role within the Japanese social context is not well received and often shunned but its geisha role has also become a social status indicator for maybe. Geishas possess many paradoxical role in their social and self-being structure.

In this essay, I seek to understand and study the embodiment of affect and heterotopias that exist within the geisha’s ‘karyūkai’ (Flower and Willow World’). This study will extend into the study of the okiya heterotopic nature within the Japanese people, its city and its inhabitant, the essay will study as well the heterotopical nature of geisha as a body, a vessel,  an art, an individual and how its rituals plays a part in their separation of body and being.

– Barry Lim

One Response to “Of Rituals and Being”


  1. Barry, This will be a fascinating and unusual essay in our line-up of institutional forms. Be sure to explain how the Geisha house functions as an institution, and also be sure to explain what you mean by affect in relation to the Geisha. Also keep in mind that it is not a very long essay, so you may need to further constrain what you plan to discuss. Don’t just depend on Foucault’s heterotopias, perhaps use Thrift, or Massumi or Deleuze to explain affect?


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