Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores Inoue Hisashi's 1993 play, Manzanar, My Town (Manzana, waga machi), as both his critique of the Japanese imperialist past and his exploration of women's solidarity in the context of Japanese American internment during World War II. Unlike many literary works depicting internment, the play mainly targets Japanese audiences in the 1990s. In light of the Reagan administration's official apology in 1988 for internment, the play, at a glance, addresses women's solidarity against the injustice of internment. However, by depicting the simultaneous singing of two types of Japanese popular songs symbolizing Japanese imperialism—a shōka song authorized by the state to nurture schoolchildren's national pride and naniwa-bushi chanting that promoted patriotism for adult audiences—Inoue also situates internment as a site where the female Japanese American characters uncritically celebrate their homeland Japan while revealing their ignorance of how other Asians suffered from Japanese imperialism. The latter revelation emerges when one of these female internees turns out to be a Chinese American "spy" whose father was killed by the Japanese authorities in China. The collective singing of the Japanese songs leads them to mobilize their vulnerability derived from their Japanese ancestry, the sole reason for them to face persecution, and to eventually protest against both American and Japanese imperialism. The harmonized voices of the Japanese American women illuminate how Inoue recreates the story of internment to challenge the Japanese public of his time on selective forgetting of empire, while addressing the importance of women's solidarity against injustice.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-5029
Print ISSN
1059-9770
Pages
pp. 128-152
Launched on MUSE
2020-07-09
Open Access
No
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