The Okinawan revival in Hawai'i: Contextualizing culture and identity over diasporic time and space

by Ueunten, Wesley Iwao, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, 2007, 197 pages; 3275635


The purpose of this dissertation is to understand the recent revival of culture and identity among second, third, and fourth generation Okinawans in Hawaii. This revival challenges the teleological assumption that all immigrant groups willingly and naturally shed their cultures and identities on their way toward becoming less "strange" and more "American."

To analyze Okinawan culture and identity in Hawaii, this dissertation takes a global and transnational perspective that includes Okinawa's geopolitical role in East Asia since the 15th century as well as its present role as a site for the bulk of the U.S.'s military facilities in Japan as well as a local perspective that looks at the particular racial and ethnic dynamics that Okinawans were injected into when they began immigrating to Hawaii in 1900.

Culture and identity were found to be integral to the efforts of Okinawans in Hawaii to find and create meaning in their diasporic existence. More specifically, this dissertation documented the agency of Okinawans in Hawaii in expressing, preserving, and defining their culture and identity in resistance to being absorbed by both the larger Japanese immigrant community as well as mainstream American society. Consequently, Okinawan culture and identity are approached as formations that change over time and space rather than static "things."

Simultaneously, this dissertation also found that Okinawan culture and identity are being influenced by the restructuring of power relations between the U.S. and Japan in which the later is expected to play a greater international role commensurate with its economic power but is restrained by post-war constitutional reforms against militarism. In this context, Okinawa, which has always been seen as on the borderlands between Japan and the rest of the world, and its overseas diaspora have an important role in Japan's efforts to bolster its image as an "internationalizing" nation.

AdviserKhatharya Um
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsEthnic studies
Publication Number3275635

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