MLAL Research Seminar Series

MLAL Research Seminar Series

MLAL Research Seminar Series 
Autumn 2016
Wednesday 2nd November 2016
2pm-4pm
MC2-005
 
Barbara Geraghty
 
Okinawan literature from subaltern shame to child murder: Forging identity in the language of the conqueror
 
The Ryūkyū Kingdom (later Okinawa Prefecture), at the extreme south-west of the Japanese archipelago, has always played a liminal role geographically and culturally between Japan and the world outside. 
With a distinct culture and language – or dialect – (depending on your point of view), the Ryūkyū Islands enjoyed prosperity when in a trading and tributary relationship with China from around the 14th to the 17th centuries, a ruinous tributary relationship with southern Japan as well as China until the 1870s, a colonial relationship with imperial Japan from the 1870s until 1945 and then military government by the US until ‘reversion’ to Japan in 1972. 
 
From the mid-nineteenth century, writers in the Ryūkyū Islands have adopted Japanese as their main language of expression. Literature from Okinawa has dealt with the islands’ anomalous and troubled position in Japan in various ways as this paper will show, ranging from the dilemma of the subaltern to the silencing of women, to expressions of rage at the problems associated with the continuing presence of US bases in the prefecture. Okinawan literature thus provides an example of identity being analysed and asserted in a dominant, outside language, a different empire writing back.
 
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