Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Mediating National and Transnational Policy in the Politics of Cultural Heritage in Japan

Sat, June 25, 10:30am to 12:20pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 121


This paper discusses the way in which the cultural heritage of Okinawa has emerged as a primary focus of Japanese cultural policy and politics in their national and transnational context. Kumiodori, the musical and theatrical tradition of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom, has been valorized as the authentic performance of Okinawa, in which, however, the native body has been imagined and performed as the temporal and spatial other while Okinawa has been defined and gendered in terms of hegemonic relations in the history and geopolitics of the Asia Pacific region. Reconstructed in the discourse of nation building, particularly after the Reversion of Okinawa from the United States military control in postwar Japan, kumiodori has been designated, and thus protected and promoted, not only as the important intangible cultural property of Japan, but also as UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. The growing influence of the transnational framework of cultural heritage on the cultural policy of Japan has complicated and destabilized established contextual assumptions about the performing of the Okinawan other. This paper examines the cultural production of the native body, paying attention to the underlying force of national and transnational policy and politics, as well as that of the authority of scholarly discourse, in elevating kumiodori as cultural heritage. It explores how the performance of kumiodori has strategically mediated and negotiated historical and diplomatic tensions between Japan, China, and US from the premodern era to the present, and how Okinawan cultural politics has challenged, while continuing to be entangled in, the structural hierarchy.