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The Spectacle of Japanese American TraumaRacial Performativity and World War II$
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Emily Roxworthy

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832209

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832209.001.0001

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“A Race of Ingenious Marionettes”

“A Race of Ingenious Marionettes”

Theatricalizing the Japanese, 1853–1946

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 1 “A Race of Ingenious Marionettes”
Source:
The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma
Author(s):

Emily Roxworthy

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824832209.003.0002

This chapter traces how a theatricalizing discourse about the Japanese became ingrained in U.S. foreign policy and entrenched in the Western imagination, starting with Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s spectacular opening of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. This theatricalizing discourse insisted that Japanese people had long ago traded sincerity for artifice and focused their social and political interactions on the visible, superficial level of highly aesthetic ceremonies and spectacles. Eight decades later, the internment policy would replicate this logic by insisting that Japanese Americans’ claims to U.S. citizenship were merely surface imitations of Americanization that disguised their deep-seated loyalty to the Japanese Empire. The chapter traces this theatricalizing discourse circulated by thinkers in the West about the natural-born actors of Japan from the 1850s up to the present, in which many Anglo-Americans still blithely repeat the long-standing racist stereotype that those of Japanese descent are inherently theatrical people prone to hide their true motives behind a screen of aesthetic display and disguise.

Keywords:   Japanese Americans, Japan, United States, theatricalizing discourse, Japanese theatricalism, citizenship, racist stereotypes

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