Abstract

Abstract:

This essay argues that the Victorian racial imaginary of Helen Bannerman’s 1899 children’s book Little Black Sambo lives on in the kawaii, or “cute,” aesthetic of post-war Japan. While studies of Victorian children’s literature have drawn attention to the ways in which these books reflect and reproduce the racial ideologies associated with British imperialism, I contend that Victorian “imperial innocence” continues to haunt children’s culture far beyond the temporal and geographical boundaries traditionally ascribed to the period. After World War II left Japan subject to the American occupation, Little Black Sambo became a runaway bestseller, prompting anti-Black racist imagery to proliferate in kawaii commodities. By tracing the book’s afterlife in kawaii, I illustrate how Victorian children’s fantasies have been transmuted into flexible signifiers of racial forgetting.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2052
Print ISSN
0042-5222
Pages
pp. 565-589
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-24
Open Access
No
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