Between African Americans and Japanese: Traveling Texts

Recipient of Grants-in-Aid for Conferences

This is a two-day symposium on the cross-pollination between Japanese and African-American literature and culture. Paper presentations will address a diverse sampling of cross-cultural productions including music, popular culture, literature, and film, and favor open ended explorations of how such cultural productions come to signify in new and intellectually intriguing ways.

Our participants are engaged in scholarly work that asks such questions as: Why and how did author Nakagami Kenji find resonance and identification with women African-American writers such as Toni Morrison? How can contemporary Japanese continue to find Little Black Sambo dolls “cute”? Why does the American artist, iona rozeal brown, utilize ukiyo-e  in her depictions of blackface? What is it about anime that so fascinates young Americans? How does Zen speak to Americans? Can an ethnically Japanese author write “black literature”? The papers presented will include ones ranging from Japanese “blackface,” to Richard Wright’s English language haiku, to the Japanese embrace of the “black national anthem,” “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”

Co-hosted by Nina Cornyetz (NYU Gallatin) and William Bridges (St. Olaf College)


Friday, October 4, 2013

10:00 AM: greetings and introduction – Nina Cornyetz

10:15 – Crystal Anderson –  “Urban Geishas: Reading Race and Gender in iona rozeal brown’s paintings”

11:15 – Anne McKnight – “Robot Ethnographies: Race and Blackness in Colonial Science Fictions”

12:15 – Noriko Manabe – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Intertextuality in Antinuclear Hip-Hop and Reggae Tracks in Post-Fukushima Japan”

1:15 – 2:30 lunch break

2:30 – Nina Cornyetz  – “The Theatrics of Japanese Blackface: Body as  Mannequin”

3:30 –William Bridges – “Towards an Ethics of the Invisible: Blackness, Writing and Oe Kenzaburo”

4:30 –Michio Arimitsu – “The Globefish and the Watermelon: The Multitonality of African American Haikai in the Post-WWII Era”

6pm – Dinner

Saturday, October 5, 2013

10:00 – Shana Redmond – “The ‘Perfection of Strangeness’: Music in the Making of a Pre-war Comparative Diaspora.”

11:00 –Marvin Sterling – “The End(s) of Diaspora: Race, Afro­Asia, and Jamaican Culture in Japan”

12:00 – 1:15 lunch break

1:15 – Yoshinobu Hakutani – “Richard Wright’s Haiku and Modernist Poetics”

2:15 – Dexter Thomas – “Cocaine Blunts and Comic Books: The Woman that Launched the Japanese Hip-Hop Scene.”

3:15 – Velina Houston – “The Sense of What it is to Be Human: Exploring Distinctive Worlds in the Theatrical Realm”

4:15 – closing remarks, William Bridges