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Radio Group Listening and Reconstitution of Postwar Subjectivity in U.S.-Occupied Japan

Sat, June 25, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 114


This paper illuminates the complex interplay among power, postwar subject formation, and the act of listening in US-occupied Japan by investigating the practices of radio listening groups. Deeply concerned with the actual effects of the “reorientation and reeducation program for the Japanese,” US occupation forces encouraged the Japanese to organize small community groups for guided radio-listening sessions from May 1947. They enabled educators, broadcasters, and US occupation forces to directly monitor and intervene in the listening activities of ordinary Japanese. With a zeal for improving life and rebuilding the nation, many Japanese participants learned and practiced the promoted ways of self-disciplined and focused listening. According to US media personnel, such practices of listening to the radio together could promote mutual discussion, self-improvement, and “a democratic attitude toward life.” Analyzing records of US occupation forces and NHK, reports of listening groups, newspapers, and magazines, I assert that group radio listening practices served as important techniques for reshaping sense and sensibility of the Japanese people under US cultural hegemony in the context of the emerging Cold War. Contrary to the US occupation forces’ emphasis on the new and liberal democratic nature of group listening practices, my research illuminates that their precedents in wartime Japan served for the constitution of loyal and responsible imperial subjects and, formed an important base for postwar group listening practices. In so doing, I intend to demonstrate the politics of senses that facilitated the transition from imperial to postwar Japan.