Reflecting (on) the Orientalist Gaze: A Feminist Analysis of Japanese-U.S. GIs Intimacy in Postwar Japan and Contemporary Okinawa
University of Kansas
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This project explores experiences of two generations of Japanese women, "war brides," who married U.S. GIs and moved to the U.S. in the post-World War II era, and "military wives," who married U.S. GIs within the past twenty years and who currently live in Okinawa. My purpose in this study is to examine, reflect on, and challenge the Orientalist gaze, which I define as Eurocentric with male-centered perceptions, interpretations, and representations of Asian women. In the context of U.S. global militarization, I argue that U.S. servicemen stationed in Japan, Korea and other Asian nations participate in reproducing and perpetuating Orientalist stereotypes of Asian women, while women's voices often are not heard. I use a feminist strategy and reverse the positions of those who gaze and those who are objects of the gaze to make Japanese women's viewpoints and personal experiences central to my analysis. Reversing the subject-object orientations enables Japanese women to express their subjective views of U.S. men under their gaze and to represent themselves in their own voices. Methods for this research include in-depth-interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research in the U.S. and Japan, which I conducted between 2002 and 2005. My study shows that Japanese women have agency as critical analysts of U.S. men and reveals that their perceptions of American GIs become more diverse and complicated as their gendered, racialized, and sexualized experiences interact with their GI partners' race, class, and militarized masculinity. This study also demonstrates that shifts in economic power dynamics between the U.S. and Japan and globalization of hip-hop culture contributed to reshaping women's perceptions of U.S. GIs in contemporary Okinawa, while these younger generations of women still share specific images of U.S. men with war brides.
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