Democracy, Consumerism and Gender Roles in U.S. American and Japanese Women’s Magazines during the Cold War
My research project looks at the ways U.S. reeducation and democratization policies after World War II affected perceptions and representations of gender in Japan and the United States, particularly of femininity and women’s role in society. The project understands “reeducation” in a broad sense as a political-cultural project of nation (re)building that aims to regulate ways of thinking and behavior in society. Reeducation policies in Japan attempted to redefine both national identity and social relations within the nation. I argue that these policies were mirrored by comparable efforts in the United States to reaffirm certain notions of nation and gender at home against the background of the emerging Cold War and its ideological threats. I will analyze and compare the effects of these two different yet interconnected reeducation projects on media representations of women, focusing on Japanese and U.S. American women’s magazines published between 1945 and 1952 and the narrative conflation of democracy, capitalism and “American (consumer) culture” in these representations.
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.
The post-WWII Economic Reform Conceptualization among US, Japan, Okinawa and Reeducation Policy on Culture of Work
My research project examines the ways economic reform was coordinated and how the U.S. reeducation affected the culture of work in the post-WWII Okinawa. The research first attempts to unwind the triangular political relationship of the U.S., Japan, and Okinawa in the conceptualization of the framework of the economic revitalization in Okinawa of 1945-1972. By looking at archives of the three political players, I will examine how and to what extent the ideological negotiation was taking place and what the economic reform in Okinawa meant to them. Given that the war resulted in a drastic change of the industrial structure in Okinawa, this project also tries to analyze how the U.S. reeducation policy mobilized Okinawan workers in such transition period and how it played in the U.S. cold-war regime. Finally, the project tries to examine if the above-mentioned post-WWII economic reform and U.S. reeducation policy on labour have any influence on vulnerability and dependency of Okinawa’s economy in today’s world.
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.