There is increasing interest in how work and organisation are represented in popular culture. Moreover, there remains a great deal of debate surrounding the relationship between cultural artefacts and social agency. In this paper I first look at the ways in which men and women at work in their organizations are represented in salaryman manga. Using Critical Discourse Analysis and Ontological Commitment as methodological and theoretical background, I will propose a theoretical framework for relating these to the reality of a gendered hierarchy of employment relations in the Japanese firm. Of particular note is a wildly caricatured character that appears in the popular manga series 'Salaryman Kintaro', whom I call the 'overbearing American female boss from hell'. I will argue that it is through the depictions of characters such as these that legitimacy for Japan's culturally exceptionalist and male centred capitalism is socially constructed.
Peter Matanle is lecturer in Japanese studies at the University of Sheffield's School of East Asian Studies and, for the 2010-11 academic year, visiting research scholar at Doshisha University in Kyoto. His research interests are in the sociology and cultural geography of work in Japan and he is the founder and general editor of the 'electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies' (www.japanesestudies.org.uk), which celebrates its tenth year in publication this year. More details of Peter's professional activities can be found at: http://shef.ac.uk/seas/staff/japanese/matanle.html.