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Title:Performing Embodied Histories: Colonialism, Gender, and Okinawa in Modern Japan
Author(s):Barske, Valerie Holshouser
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kelsky, Karen L.,
Department / Program:East Asian Languages and Cultures
Discipline:East Asian Languages and Cultures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Women's Studies
Abstract:This dissertation examines embodied histories in the production of Okinawa at the intersection of colonialism, gender, and the body in modern Japan. By combining archival research with ethnographic methods, I problematize standard approaches for researching, writing, and performing histories, especially with regard to excavating colonial subjectivities and women's voices. Through an analysis of performance traditions, bodily practices, and ethnic dancing as embodied activism, I focus on how Okinawans actively negotiate local identities vis-a-vis shifting colonial systems of power. As Meiji era Japan began creating an empire in the late 19th century, Okinawa became one of the first foreign spaces to be conquered by Japanese military forces and subordinated under a Japanese governorship. The first section of my work argues that imperial Japan colonized Okinawa especially through targeting women and gendered bodily practices within a complex system of '"nested colonialisms." In this process, Okinawans actively participated in constituting an ethno-racial hierarchy that defined Okinawa through and against Hokkaido, Taiwan, Korea, and the South Seas. Challenging the periodization of Japan's imperial history as ending in 1945, the main section of this thesis addresses the politicized appropriation of ethnic dancing in the postwar era. Following the Battle of Okinawa and the end of World War II, the American Occupation employed performance traditions in the decolonization of Okinawa against the remnants of Japanese imperialism. I demonstrate how Okinawan activists and performers employed ethnic dancing to create a Pan-Okinawan sense of ethno-history and identity, constructed vis-a-vis trans-imperial contestations. In the struggle for Reversion to Japanese sovereignty, the performing arts represented a way of culturally reuniting Okinawa with Japan. Reversion discourses often encouraged the rewriting of historical narratives and the redefining of post-imperial Japanese culture as inclusive of Okinawan ethnic difference. I examine how post-Reversion activists continue to use cultural performances to engage with postcolonial struggles and to protest against historical discrimination represented in the ongoing presence of U.S. military bases. Finally, I conclude that the performing arts serves as meaningful site for analyzing the gendered and embodied nature of enduring colonial histories in Okinawa, Japan, and East Asia.
Issue Date:2009
Description:364 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI3391881
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:2009

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