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The ties that bind: Representations of Okinawa and the US military in American popular culture

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This article explores how the island of Okinawa and its inhabitants have been perceived and represented through American popular culture. It argues that the American representation of Okinawans reflects the significant role that the US military has played in the formation (and reformation) of Okinawan self-identity. Conversely, representations of American servicemen and their behaviour towards Okinawans illuminate the shifting attitudes Americans have held towards the deployment of US military personnel overseas since 1945. This article suggests that American popular culture has both reinforced and questioned the post-war discourse that has defined Okinawans as victims of Japanese imperialism, portrayed the US military as their liberators and has therefore served as justification for Okinawas continued use as a military colony.

Keywords: cultural representation; ethnicity; memory; military; post-war

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Auckland

Publication date: 2011-09-08

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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