February 27, 2017

“Queering the Transpacific: Inter-imperial Relations in Lonny Kaneko’s ‘The Shoyu Kid’ and Oshima Nagisa’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”

Paper abstract for the Association for Asian American Studies Conference in Portland, OR, this April!

This paper argues for a queer transpacific critique that reads queer Asian racialization beyond the “racial castration” model expounded by David Eng (2001), and towards one that also foregrounds inter-imperial relations in Asian American and transpacific history (see Augusto Espiritu 2014).  As Eiichiro Azuma (2005) has discussed, many Issei settlers considered themselves as modern and worthy of the US frontier as white settlers, and by the 1930s, some in the Japanese Empire even propagandized a superiority of the Yamato race above whiteness.  This paper offers readings of two popular queer texts, Lonny Kaneko’s short story “The Shoyu Kid” (1976) set during US Japanese internment, and Oshima Nagisa’s film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) set in a Japanese POW camp in Java.  Both texts narrativize illicit queer relations between subjects of competing heteronormative empires.  What happens if one reads the cowboy-Indian play in “Shoyu Kid” not merely as a displacement of Japanese “brownness” as Eng does, but rather by way of Iyko Day’s “settler-native-alien” triad that might also foreground Japanese settler-colonialism?  In Mr. Lawrence, how might the Japanese homophobic backlash toward the rape of a Dutch POW by a Korean soldier, and a closeted homosexuality for the Japanese captain, both perceived by the white characters as exploitable weaknesses, be read as a filmic prelude to what Jasbir Puar (2007) calls homonationalism, when white homo-norms are set as “modern” against “backward” Asian hetero-norms?  In essence, this paper aims to further the conversation at the intersection of racialization, queerness and inter-imperialisms in the transpacific.

No comments:

Post a Comment