Black-Okinawa: Mixed-Cultural Formation of African-Americans and Okinawans in Post-War Okinawa

Spring 2012
  • Graduate
Ariko Ikehara
Ethnic Studies
Black-Okinawa: Mixed-Cultural Formation of African-Americans and Okinawans in Post-War Okinawa

My research examines the socio-cultural and historical formation of a black-Asian community that grew out of the US military occupation of Okinawa during the 1960s and the 1970s. It is a history and a legacy of African American soldiers and Okinawans in a town called Koza-shi, also known as “black town,” where a political alliance between these groups was formed during the height of the Black Power and anti-base/war movements. For this project, I wish to illuminate, not only the political history based on the 1970 Koza Uprising that made this city famous, but also the social-cultural formation that emerged out of this cohabitation of space. I argue that the social-cultural legacy continues in the present moment yet is absent from the public memory and the official discourse, due to certain social pressures to silence this history, and historical stigma and trauma that continue to haunt this city.
I explore how the notion of "blackness" and “black-Okinawan-ness” is apprehended, circulated, and expressed in Okinawa; in what forms and styles of black-Okinawa can be observed in contemporary Okinawa. I employ ethnography and archival research as the primary methodology, I attempt to map this continuum of socio-cultural manifestations expressed in contemporary Okinawa.