January 25, 2016/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

UCLA Royce Hall 314

Nationalism and Vitalism on the Okinawan Stage

Majikina Yūkō's "Abyss"

Colloquium with James Rhys Edwards, Ph.D (UCLA Ethnomusicology '15)

Photo: via bung-okinawa.com, 2013.

"In 1879, Imperial Japan annexed the Ryūkyū Islands, dissolving the Ryūkyū Kingdom and establishing Okinawa Prefecture. This "disposition of Ryūkyū" triggered a fitful transformation of longstanding political and economic relations. It also stimulated the creation of cultural forms and practices grounded in ethnic-national and class identity rather than status identity. In this talk, I will introduce the art form perhaps most representative of the prewar Okinawan working class: popular musical drama or kageki. Unlike concurrent Okinawan elite literature, which explicitly addresses the political tensions of modernization, most kageki remain solidly in the domestic sphere. One exception is Majikina Yūkō’s Abyss (Fuchi, 1919), the story of Okinawan laborers who suffer relentless exploitation at the hands of mainland Japanese capitalists, but are eventually vindicated through their son's success in the Imperial Japanese Army. Reading Abyss in concert with the work of period critics and scholars, I will argue that Majikina skillfully conveys Okinawans' fraught desire to overcome economic marginalization through ethnic-national integration. I will further suggest that despite its outward anti-capitalist stance, Abyss aligns with a vitalist biopolitical logic that bridges the cultural and economic dimensions of Okinawan modernity."

James Rhys Edwards received his doctorate in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2015, with a dissertation on the aesthetics and politics of commercial performing arts in prewar Okinawa, Japan. He has carried out research in Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore, leading to publications in Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism, Ethnomusicology Review, International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, and the forthcoming edited volume Current Directions in Ecomusicology.

Free & open to the public!


Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies