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The Other Ryukyus

Sat, June 25, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 115

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


The Ryukyu Islands consist of a string of more than 100 small islands, extending 1,000 kilometers from Taiwan to Kyushu. Bounded on the northwest by the Okinawa Trough in the East China Sea, and on the southeast by the Ryukyu Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the chain is articulated into three main island groups—the Southern, Central, and Northern Ryukyus. Despite the geographical extent and large number of islands that make up the archipelago, Western-language studies of the islands have dealt almost exclusively with Okinawa, in the Central Ryukyus. Seat of the Ryukyu monarchy from 1429 to 1879 and ground zero in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, Okinawa Island has also been the contested site of the post-war U.S. Occupation and, still today, of U.S. military bases. This restricted focus has fostered skewed views of the rich diversity that, since prehistoric times, has characterized the environments, peoples, and cultures of “the other Ryukyus,” the islands to the north and south of Okinawa Island. Such views also distort any nuanced understanding of how the islands have related to the center of regional power in Okinawa, as well as to Japan, China, Northeast, and Southeast Asia.
This panel is a first step in addressing this imbalance. It brings together an international group of scholars from multiple disciplines: history, anthropology, and ethnomusicology. Gregory Smits (U.S.), Amanda Stinchecum (U.S.), Henry Johnson (New Zealand), Sueo Kuwahara (Japan) and Philip Hayward (Australia) open the conversation.

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