TRANSFORMATION AND RESILIENCE AT SHURI-JO: DEFINING A GENOME OF PLACE
Shreve, John Patrick
University of Kansas
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The 1970s is widely regarded as the decade of environmental awakening in America. But many of the critical variables that later informed this ongoing conversation were mobilized in the faraway island of Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture that became a new territory of the United States by virtue of their victory in World War II (WWII). The same powerful military machine that destroyed much of Japan reorganized itself into a nation-building enterprise focused on restoring and reorienting the country into a model democracy. This dissertation will construct an interactive design framework that focuses on the creation of Okinawa's new university as a microcosm of the exchanges that redefined the island's most important cultural icon. In addition to the military government, I will illustrate how visiting professors from Michigan State University interacted with Okinawan educators to shape the University of the Ryukyus (Ryudai), a new land-grant university that produced transformative changes that reached far beyond the campus boundaries. I will demonstrate that Ryudai's post-war redevelopment period, however, takes on more profound implications of sustainability if contextualized within a "genome of place" that explores biotic, abiotic, social, and economic influences across space and time. Built on the sacred grounds of Shuri-jo, the destroyed 14th century castle, the Ryudai campus was eventually dismantled and relocated to a larger site when Okinawa reverted to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. This dissertation argues that the resilience of post-war Okinawa was symbolized by the radical transformation of the Shuri-jo site and that by disentangling the many layers of this palimpsest, its meaning may transcend its short timeframe. A critical inquiry of textual and visual materials will articulate how Shuri-jo became an iconic Cold War site where Eastern and Western cultures intersected, modernism and traditionalism converged, and natural and human systems collided. By locating the mid-century university experiment within a centuries-old context, I will also illustrate how its successes and failures may inform Okinawa's political future as it inherits several decommissioned military sites from the U.S. government.
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