The Racial Logics of Reeducation
My project revolves around the explicit and implicit racial logics of reeducation and the (un)learning of racism in the context of the US occupation in Germany and Japan. I am especially interested in the (symbolic) roles of African American GIs in both theaters of war/occupation as well as the representations of interracial relations between US soldiers and German or Japanese women. Analyzing official documents, autobiographies, interviews, and media reports, my project seeks to map postwar discourses on race and racialization in the transatlantic and transpacific spheres, to outline how African American soldiers served as linchpins of these debates, and to explain how racism has been (un)learned in the intercultural exchanges between the US, Germany, and Japan after 1945.
Reeducation and Gender Politics in Reeducation Films and Hollywood Movies
My project explores the ways in which post-World War II Reeducation films and exported Hollywood movies (as well as other popular cultural productions) were used – both explicitly and implicitly – as part of reeducation programs abroad, transporting democratic ideas and displaying contemporaneous cultural gender regimes within the US at the same time. Those films addressed non-American audiences with the intention to offer them attractive models for identification (as democratic citizens in a liberal market economy – like the US) but also used appropriations of ‘foreign’ settings for the projective representation of domestic cultural, social, and political problems within the US. In the context of reeducation, constructions of gender differences, in particular, were politically instrumentalized; this included the affirmation of heteronormativity, patriarchal femininity, domesticity, and reproduction as foundational for a new political order. Reeducation films proper and generic Hollywood films of the time paired specifically coded hegemonic American masculinity with (imagined German or Japanese) femininity, often mirroring the power gap between occupiers and those to be reeducated, including a ‘fresh start’ or new beginning in the form of a couple’s romantic relationship. My project on national and transnational post-World War II gender politics addresses the clashes between hegemonic US gender narratives and ideals of democracy and democratization exported to Germany and Japan, the construction of masculinity in cultural productions, and the potential and/or limitations of available filmic formulas for the assigned task of teaching democracy abroad in terms of production and reception.
Quizzes and Questionnaires: Playing Democracy under US-Occupation in Japan and Germany
My research project looks into the problem of reeducation in Japan and Germany from the interdisciplinary perspective of media/broadcasting studies and communication research. In particular, I will study how the concept of play—as it was understood and applied in contemporary psychotherapeutic approaches—played a key role in “affirmative” reeducation efforts (as opposed to more oppressive strategies, such as media censorship). I argue that quiz shows and public opinion polls were envisioned as a productive way to unlearn obsolete totalitarian values and learn the new democratic ideals of freedom and equal competition through play. On the one hand, participatory quiz shows targeted not only the liberation of the audience, but were also part of the emancipation from the medium’s formerly oppressive militaristic content. On the other hand, the conduct of public opinion polls aimed at looking into the minds of “the Japanese” and “the Germans,“ and at training them in actively participating in a democratic society by voicing their own opinions.