Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Projecting Blackness: Japan's Cinematic Encounters with the black-American Other (1948-1993)
by Citizen, Robyn, Ph.D., New York University, 2015, 300; 3740784
Abstract (Summary)

“Projecting Blackness: Japan’s Cinematic Encounters with the black-American Other (1945-1993)” extends studies of ‘black Pacific’ cultural discourses, Afro-Asian political alliances into the realm of transnational and cross-cultural film analysis. This project is motivated by two research inquiries 1) Why are specific tropes of filmic blackness invoked in Japanese cinema beginning in the postwar period, only to sharply decline during the 1980s? 2) What can the patterns of interracial cinematic encounters in various historical and cultural periods reveal about the perceived relationship between figurative blackness and black-Americans, and Japanese ethno-racial identity and geopolitical status?

The first chapter shows that particular tropes of blackness from American social problem films were deterritorialized and adapted in postwar cinemas of the Axis powers, to reflexively contemplate destabilized core narratives of national and cultural identity. However, through analysis of The Catch (1960) and Black Sun (1964) illustrates that for the Japanese, the enplotment of black-American characters emerged from a recognition of isomorphism between the conflict at the nexus of black-American marginalized ethno-racial status yet powerful national identity, and Japan’s own ambivalent racial and geopolitical statuses. Chapter two finds that the biracial black Other characters in genre films of the 1970s embodied a mode of otherness against which differences among the Japanese were initially exposed, but ultimately, reconciled. Chapter three bridges the gap in the lack of scholarship around black women in Japanese film and argues that black women’s general absence in the postwar imaginary of black-Japanese encounters is why, unlike black men, they are not burdened with the allegorical function of representing political and cultural legacies of the Occupation in films. Chapter four takes a two-pronged approach in explaining the sudden disappearance of blackness from Japanese screens in the 1980s and focuses primarily black-Japanese encounters in American films. At the height of Japan’s economic and geopolitical ascent, black-Americanness necessarily becomes less relevant to its process of reflexive self-definition whilst Japanese’s reemergence as a threat in the American cultural imaginary for the first time since WWII occasions white American contemplation of itself in relation to both black minority and Japanese foreign others.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Choi, Jung-Bong
Commitee: Guerrero, Ed, Orbaugh, Sharalyn, Stam, Robert, Straayer, Chris
School: New York University
Department: Cinema Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: African American Studies, Asian Studies, Film studies
Keywords: African american cinema, Black pacific, Japanese cinema, Transnational cinema
Publication Number: 3740784
ISBN: 9781339328980
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