This dissertation examines the transnational identity and subjectivity formations of African American men and women, who were stationed in Japan under U.S. military occupation during the period from 1945 to 1952, from a gendered perspective. It argues that African American men and women in occupied Japan asserted and performed their racialized and nationalized sense of empowerment in gender-specific ways through their face-to-face or discursive encounters and interactions with the Japanese, as well as their investment in racial, gender, and class dynamics within the U.S. Army, in the larger American society, and in black communities on both sides of the Pacific.
After introducing the analytical framework of “gendering the Black Pacific” in Part I, I discuss in Part II the social construction of racial manhood among African American male soldiers in the all-black 24 th Infantry Regiment at Camp Gifu through the tri-racial interactive dynamics among black and white Americans, and the Japanese. This section explores the masculinized contestations over racial, national, sexual, and class identities among African American GIs in occupied Japan, who could exert considerable power and prerogatives over Japanese citizens as members of the U.S. occupation force, while being segregated and discriminated against within the U.S. Army.
In Part III, I focus on African American women in occupied Japan as major actors in shaping the gendered formation of the “Black Pacific.” This section examines how black women achieved the feminine sense of empowerment by exploring alternative racial identities, gender roles, and class positions in Japan, while they continued facing and challenging racism and sexism within the U.S. military and from the patriarchal sector of the black community there.
In Part IV, I argue that the trans-Pacific debates over interracial intimacy, sexuality, and marriage between African American GIs and Japanese women during the U.S. occupation of Japan functioned as a transnational and international site of identity politics. Through this, African American, as well as Japanese, men and women on both sides of the Pacific grappled with the terms of race consciousness, gender conventions, and international and interethnic relations in the global context of the postwar U.S. political and military engagement with Japan as well as the domestic transformations in racial and sexual regimes during the early Cold War period.