SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Strategies of ‘writing back’ in contemporary representations of Okinawa – a postcolonial approach

Ina Hein
Prof Dr Ina Hein (Institute of East Asian Studies / Department for Japanese Studies, University of Vienna)

Date: 19 March 2014Time: 5:05 PM

Finishes: 19 March 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G50

Type of Event: Seminar


Since the “Okinawa boom” which took hold of Japanese popular culture and mass media in the mid-1990s, Okinawa – Japan’s southernmost as well as youngest prefecture – is marketed as an exotic, peaceful island paradise. Especially films and television series (terebi dorama) tend to construct Okinawa as a place which promises iyashi – an experience of being healed from the negative influences of Japanese modernity – to its visitors from the Japanese main islands. At the same time, the prefecture’s problems and conflict-ridden relationship with mainland Japan, which can be traced back to the traumata of the Battle of Okinawa, the subsequent U.S. occupation, and the continuing strong military presence on the islands, are completely omitted.

In my current research, I am examining representations of Okinawa in (Japanese and Okinawan) literature and media from the 1990s onwards, with a focus on images of Okinawa as constructed from an Okinawan perspective. In this talk, I will focus on a number of Okinawan films and television productions in which critical attitudes against these popular stereotypes are expressed, asking what kinds of topics are being covered and what kinds of narrative modes are being employed. I would like to answer the following questions: What strategies do media producers from Okinawa develop in order to express their resistance against images of Okinawa created by the Japanese popular media – and (how) can they be explained within the terms of postcolonial theory?

Speaker Biography

Ina Hein received her PhD degree as a member of the doctoral program "Identity and difference - gender constructions and interculturality” at the University of Trier (Germany). Her dissertation on gender construction in the literature of popular Japanese women writers was granted the university’s award for best PhD thesis. For several years, she has been a member of the research and teaching staff at the Institute for Studies on Modern Japan at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf (Germany). Currently, she is professor for Japanese studies at the University of Vienna (Austria). Her research covers contemporary Japanese literature, cultural studies, and gender studies.

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