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Becoming American? The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi$
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ShiPu Wang

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834180

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834180.001.0001

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Negotiating “Japaneseness”

Negotiating “Japaneseness”

(p.46) Chapter Two Negotiating “Japaneseness”
Becoming American? The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

ShiPu Wang

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter focuses on Kuniyoshi's efforts to demonstrat his allegiance to America following Pearl Harbor. Through a series of public statements he forcefully touted both his American allegiance and a Japanese American identity infused with an underlying patriotic fervor that, when taken as a whole project, resulted in a nationalistic identity construct that left little room for nuances. Underlying his American boosterism was also the unstated hope for a future America where race relations—particularly those between Japanese Americans and other Americans—would improve because of wartime contributions from loyal immigrants like him. But as the opportunity to contribute with his art to the U.S. anti-Japan graphics propaganda arose, he would resort to a representational strategy aimed at foregrounding a modernist visual rhetoric of universal humanism, instead of grappling with any Japanese or American specificity. Kuniyoshi would devote himself to an intense period of artistic production from which much imagery, with nuance and ambivalence that belie its supposed propagandist simplicity, emerged.

Keywords:   Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Japanese Americans, Japanese American identity, race relations, immigrants, public statements, anti-Japan propaganda, patriotism

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