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Imperial designs: fashion, cosmetics, and cultural identity in Japan, 1931-1943

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Title: Imperial designs: fashion, cosmetics, and cultural identity in Japan, 1931-1943
Author(s): Nickerson, Rebecca A.
Director of Research: Toby, Ronald P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Toby, Ronald P.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Burton, Antoinette M.; Abelmann, Nancy A.; Tierney, Robert T.
Department / Program: E Asian Languages & Cultures
Discipline: E Asian Languages & Cultures
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Modern Japanese History Gender Women Empire Japan Cosmetics Fashion Shiseido Tanaka Chiyo Colonialism national uniform ethnic costumes femininity
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes how women and gender shaped Japanese imperial culture at home by examining fashion and cosmetics in the 1930s and 1940s. In contrast to conventional narratives of Japanese imperial history that posit Japan’s nation- and empire-building projects as separate entities, one extending out from the other, I place women and gender at the heart of my analysis in order to show how nation and empire were mutually constituted through a singular process of colonial modernity. I examine debates on the “national uniform” and ethnic costumes to demonstrate how women functioned as objects in the quest to define Japanese cultural identity, which I argue was shaped through both Japan’s semi-colonial relationship with the West and its imperial aspirations in Asia. At the same time, I introduce the figures of Miss Shiseido—an innovative marketing campaign by Japan’s leading maker of luxury cosmetics—and Tanaka Chiyo—Japan’s first fashion designer—to show how the materiality of fashion and cosmetics enabled individual women to act as subjects with the capacity to shape and transform their world through their consumption practices and the choices they made in assembling their appearance. By analyzing the ways in which critics struggled to respond to shifting ideals of femininity through discourses on women’s fashion and cosmetics, I show how women and gender were constitutive of Japanese imperialism and how they expose the incompleteness of Japan’s imperial regime.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/24222
Rights Information: © 2011 Rebecca Ann Nickerson
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05
 

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